What Is Chronic Stress, And Do I Have It?
There’s no way to completely erase stress from your life. Stress is a biological response to pressure, and it’s an important part of our survival system. In some situations, a small amount of stress can actually be beneficial: it can help you meet a deadline or succeed while playing sports. Unfortunately, chronic stress is another story.
Chronic stress happens when you have to endure a long-term stressful situation. For example, someone experiencing poverty, dealing with a deeply dissatisfying job, or suffering ongoing issues in your marriage or family life. When you’re experiencing chronic stress, it sometimes feels like there’s no way to change your situation.
The Dangers of Chronic Stress
Our bodies weren’t made to handle stress for extended periods of time. Chronic stress has been associated with lowered immune function, increased susceptibility to some kinds of infection, increased biological aging, and worsening of conditions like depression and heart disease. In other words, it can make you get sick more often and worsen things you’re already dealing with – plus, it can keep you from performing your best at work or school.
It can cause problems in your personal life, too: you may fail to prioritize important relationships because you’re too busy dealing with stress, or you may withdraw socially because you can’t seem to recover from the stresses of each day.
How To Know If You Have It
According to Yale Medicine, if you experience 3-5 of the below symptoms for more than several weeks, you might be suffering from chronic stress:
- Aches and pains
- Insomnia or sleepiness
- A change in social behavior, such as staying in often
- Low energy
- Unfocused or cloudy thinking
- Change in appetite
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Change in emotional responses to others
- Emotional withdrawal
What To Do About It
The good news is that chronic stress is treatable. Getting enough sleep, eating well, moving your body often and in ways you can enjoy, and doing things that help you feel rested and relaxed are great ways to manage stress.
Here are some ideas:
- Practice deep breathing
- Make time for sleep
- Listen to music
- Eat well
- Make time for hobbies
If you think you might be suffering from chronic stress, please speak with a professional who can help you receive a diagnosis and treatment plan.