Long-Term Stress: Symptoms & Effects

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  • 0:02 Symptoms of Stress
  • 2:00 How to Manage Stress
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Melissa Doman

Melissa has a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and has taught undergraduate level psychology and lifestyle wellness community courses.

You probably know what it's like to feel 'stressed out.' What you might not know is that high levels of stress left unattended for long periods of time can wear you down emotionally and physically. Stress in life is unavoidable. The key is recognizing the signs and learning how to manage them.

Symptoms of Stress

'I'm just so stressed right now!' Many of us have likely said this aloud at one time or another, but what does it really mean? In its most basic definition, stress is negative or overwhelming physical and psychological reactions as a response to the world around us and how it affects us. Symptoms of stress are different for everyone. Listing all the symptoms would be endless but generally speaking, there are some telltale signs of physical and emotional stress.

Physical symptoms of stress can include rapid heartbeat, headaches, body aches, tight muscles, neck or jaw tightness from clenching your teeth, insomnia, lack of energy, tiredness, high blood pressure, stomach problems, skin rashes, hormonal imbalances, rapid increase or decrease in appetite, sexual dysfunction, and sweating.

Emotional symptoms of stress can include anxiety, depression, unstable mood, extreme anger, irrational fears, repetitive behaviors, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity, heightened problems in relationships, feelings of irritability, restlessness, obsessing over things, crying a lot, and nightmares.

Cumulative effects of stress

The effects of stress over a long period of time unfortunately show up in not only how you feel but also how you treat the people around you. Long-term stress can affect how you perform in school, work, and personal relationships, and how you function in your family. When your baseline is being in a stressful state, it's almost as if you forget how to relax and be happy. Most people in high achievement-focused cultures (i.e. the United States) live this way and don't even realize it.

How to Manage Stress

Long-term, untreated stress has been linked to the development of psychological and physical illnesses. Such illnesses include serious depression or anxiety, eating disorders, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic migraines, blood pressure issues, heart problems, osteoporosis, hair loss, aging skin, and obesity.

Since stress has become a big enough problem in countries around the world, the good news is there are lots of ways to healthfully deal with it. Here are some helpful methods to both physically and emotionally combat long-term stress, which someone experiencing stress can choose from:

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