Uncertainty at work, troubled relationships, financial struggles, health problems—these are the ingredients of the chronic stress cocktail that is making many Americans unhappy. These days it seems most of us are stressed about something, and according to a 2014 NPR poll that’s true. It found that half of those surveyed had experienced a “major stressful event in the past year.”
Of course, all that stress isn’t good for us. And when stress overload creeps in, it starts to eat away at our well-being. Here are 6 ways stress impacts our daily lives:
We can’t sleep. Almost everyone knows what it’s like: You lie down after a long day, ready for a good night’s sleep. But instead of blissful rest, your mind starts racing as you mentally move through your to do list, replay that argument with your spouse, or go through any of number of stressors that commonly affect our lives. According to the American Psychological Association, 43 percent of Americans report losing sleep because of stress. And when we don’t get enough sleep there are many negative side effects—our memory suffers, our risk for health problems increases, and we’re more prone to depression, just to name a few.
Our relationships suffer. World of Psychology reports on a study that found stress can cause us to be more reactive and to take offense more easily. Of course, these reactions can cause tension in relationships and may cause one or both parties to withdraw. The reality, though, is that it is important to maintain our relationships as those positive support systems can help us work through stressful events.
We feel anxious. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety, which can have severe effects on our wellbeing and lead to bigger problems. As the U.S. Library of Medicine explains, if you’re experiencing difficulty concentrating, irritability, fatigue, or trouble sleeping, you may have General Anxiety Disorder and should seek the help of a physician.
We have a negative outlook. Stress has a tendency to cause us to focus and dwell on the negative. As Here to Help notes, the result is that we begin to have poor attitudes about ourselves and our lives.
We give in to bad habits. When we’re stressed, we often look for an outlet to help us relieve that stress. For some people, that outlet might be exercise, meditation, or reading. But, as Mayo Clinic notes, for some, the outlet might be more negative. The organization points out that stress can lead to an increase in drinking or smoking, making poor food choices, and a quickness to anger.
We get sick more often. Being overstressed can actually make you physically ill. LiveStrong.com explains that when the body produces the stress hormone, cortisol, other functions, such as the immune system, slow down. If you’re frequently stressed, your immune system will not have an opportunity to get back to its normal level of functioning, which will make you more susceptible to getting sick.
If stress has taken over your life, stop and take a deep breath. Often, our stress hijacks our thoughts so that we can’t find a way out of it. Sit down and create a plan that will help you address, step by step, the stress that is affecting your life. Then, take action. You’ll be well on your way to feeling better.