Stress is a part of our everyday lives.  You cannot eliminate stress entirely from your life, but you can learn how to reduce your stress and cope with it in healthy ways.  By working to manage your stress, you will improve your overall health, reduce your risk of chronic disease and enhance your quality of life. 

Effects of Stress on Your Health and Well-Being

Being under constant stress can take a toll on your health. Over time, moderate or high levels of stress can put you at increased risk of serious health consequences, such as high blood pressure, obesity and depression.   

Here are some common effects of stress on your physical and emotional health as well as on your behavior:

Physical health

Emotional health


Fast heartbeat


Back pain

Increased blood pressure

Muscle tension

Upset stomach

Frequent or more serious colds

Insomnia or nightmares

Anxious and excessively worried



Trouble concentrating

Difficulty making decisions

Loss of interest in normal    


Overeating or not eating

Angry outbursts

Drug or alcohol abuse

Tobacco use

Social withdrawal and isolation

Source: National Health Information Center and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you already have a health condition, stress can negatively impact your health and exacerbate the symptoms related to your condition:

Immune system – Constant stress can suppress your immune system and make you more likely to get sick more often.

Blood sugars – Stress can raise blood sugar levels. It’s important for people who have diabetes to manage their stress. 

Heart – Stress is linked to high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, blood clots and the hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart disease, heart attacks and heart failure.

Muscles – Stress can cause muscles to tense up.  The contraction of muscles for extended periods can trigger tension headaches, migraines and various musculoskeletal conditions.

Digestion – Stress can affect people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.  Stress can affect digestion and which nutrients your intestines absorb.  It can also affect how quickly food moves through your body causing either diarrhea or constipation.   

Reproductive Organs – In men, excess stress can impair testosterone and sperm production leading to impotence.  In women, it can cause irregular menstrual cycles or more painful periods. 

Lungs – Stress can also affect people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and make it harder for them to breathe.

Skin – Stress can have direct effects on the skin by causing rashes and hives.  Skin problems such as acne and psoriasis can be made worse by stress.


Stress is often caused by some type of change.  Even positive changes, such as getting promoted or getting married, can cause stress.  Stress can be short-term or long-term.

Common causes of short-term stress include:

·     Too much to do and not enough time

·     Lots of little problems in the same day, such as a traffic jam or running late

·     Getting lost

·     Having an argument

Common causes of long-term stress include:

·     Death of a loved one

·     Chronic illness

·     Caring for someone with a serious illness

·     Problems at work

·     Financial problems


Here are some tips to help you reduce and manage stress:

·     Plan your time – Write a to-do list and prioritize your activities. 

·     Learn to relax – Try deep breathing, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation.  For more stress reduction techniques, please click here.

·     Be physically active – Exercise can help prevent and manage stress.  It also can help relax your muscles and improve your mood.

·     Eat healthy – Give your body the nutrition it needs by making healthy food choices such as fruits, vegetables and lean protein.

·     Drink alcohol in moderation – Avoid using alcohol to manage your stress.  If you do drink, do so in moderation.  Moderation means no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.

·     Seek support – Talk to friends and family members about your stress, issues and concerns.  They may be able to help.

·     Get professional help – If your stress persists or your problems seem to get worse, consider seeking professional help by talking to your primary care physician or making an appointment with a mental health professional. 


Source: National Health Information Center