Living a Long Life: How Stress Affects Your Health

Contrary to what you may think, not all stress is harmful to the health. There are two main types of stress. Eustress is the positive energy that gives you the drive to accomplish things. In moderate amounts, this kind of stress can energize you and give you a good buzz. It can also elevate your mood and boost your immune system.

Distress is the negative factor that you need to watch out for. If this starts to build up it will begin to adversely affect your health. It can ultimately lead to debilitating or fatal diseases including the six leading causes of death – cancer, heart disease, lung disease, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. There are a number of common signs and symptoms that will indicate if your level of stress is high. These include:

Symptoms of Stress

Signs and symptoms that your stress level is too high include:

  • Tightness in your neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Headaches, particularly at the base and crown of your head.
  • Insomnia or frequent walking throughout the night.
  • Fatigue and poor concentration.
  • Depression and loss of interest in activities you normally find pleasurable.
  • Irritability, depression and mood swings.
  • Loss of normal appetite.

Stress and your Health

Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones, such as norepinephrine and cortisol. This causes the release of energy stored in the muscles, boosting your heart rate, raising your blood pressure and slowing down metabolic function such as immunity, digestion, growth, and reproduction. Symptoms of stress may even be affecting your health although you are not aware of it.

Immune System

Stress can wreak havoc on your immune system. When you’re under stress, the cells in your immune system are unable to respond adequately and instead cause inflammation, leading to a higher risk of illness and disease.

Digestive System

Stress can cause a number of digestive issues including acid reflux, nausea, esophageal spasms, constipation, and diarrhea. It can also worsen other disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease and stomach ulcers.


When you’re suffering from chronic stress, a restful night’s sleep may seem impossible.

If you’re suffering from insomnia, you will soon begin to notice that you have difficulty concentration, problems with your short-term memory and possibly irritability, anxiety, and depression.

Tips for Beating Stress

  • Relieve stress by coloring mandalas with this app on Google Play.
  • Unwind with a hot bath or treat yourself to a relaxing massage.
  • Exercise; even a twenty-minute walk each day will help.
  • Don’t let people make too many demands on your time.

Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to relax. Learn some simple relaxation techniques such as basic breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation. Take the time to use them when you notice you are feeling some of the first signs of distress. Don’t let friend and family make too many demands on your time. Explain to them that you are there for them but you also need some time to yourself now and again.

William Macdonald is a life coach helping people to manage their stress and improve their outlook on life.