You might intellectually grasp that stress is bad for you but not understand how heightened levels of cortisol — a hormone released from chronic stress — can negatively affect your body's ability to function.
Physical illness: If you're constantly getting sick, psychological stress might be to blame. Scientists are currently researching the link between chronic stress and a compromised immune system; some studies have shown that certain stress hormones secreted by the body affect the thymus's ability to stimulate and coordinate white blood cell activity, a major influence in your body's ability to ward off illness.
Heart disease: After a recent Dutch study examined cortisol levels among the elderly, researchers found that stress significantly increases your chance of having cardiovascular issues, namely heart disease.
Obesity: Stress-induced weight gain is a real issue for millions of Americans who turn to food for solace. Chronic stress eaters tend to choose unhealthy foods, even when they're not hungry. Finding new places to channel nervous or stressed energy beyond snacking — or worse, binging — can dramatically alter an overeater's relationship with food.
Keep reading for more ways stress wreaks havoc on your body.
Depression: Chronic stressful life situations can increase the risk of developing depression if you aren't able to cope. Focusing on all your obligations and never getting a chance to relax or unwind can leave you sad and anxious, emotions that are tough to kick. Talking to a therapist about prioritizing your life or how to take a peaceful perspective in the face of adversity can help you beat depression and get back to feeling positive.
Menstrual problems: If your cycle has had a mind of its own, stress might be behind these changes. Consistent stress can greatly affect your menstrual cycle. Your period might come on unexpectedly, be put off a few weeks, or stop altogether, even if you're on birth control. If this proves to be a constant problem, talking to your gynecologist is a necessity.
While living a stress-free life is impossible, knowing when to take a step back to unwind can keep you happy and healthy. If you know you're stressed out but not sure to how to deal, check out over 15 ways to reduce stress ASAP.