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Categories > Mental and Emotional Health > Stress management

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What stress can do to your body

Stress busters

Keep your stress in check with these common-sense tactics:

  • Eat balanced meals and avoid high-fat fast food.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Don’t use alcohol, cigarettes or recreational drugs—they create more stress.
  • Slow your breathing. Breathe deeply and consciously.
  • Take a yoga or meditation class.
  • Stay in touch with or visit friends and relatives.
  • Jot down your feelings in a journal. Record your blessings, too.
  • Get emotional support. For example, if you’re grieving, meet with others who can empathize.
  • See a therapist if stress seems overwhelming.

Stress—especially chronic stress—takes its toll on us, not only mentally, but physically as well. Some experts estimate that as much as 90 percent of illness and disease is stress-related.

Ongoing stress can lead to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other health conditions. The effects of prolonged, untreated stress on your body aren’t always easy to identify since its symptoms can be attributed to physical illness or discomfort, such as a headache or backache. But recognizing early signs of stress can help you manage it before it harms your health. Use this head-to-toe guide to identify the telltale symptoms of stress. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider to rule out other underlying health conditions.


  • migraine and tension headaches
  • anger, sadness and irritability
  • mood disorders like anxiety, depression and aggressive behavior
  • insomnia
  • inability to concentrate
  • forgetfulness
  • recurring colds
  • allergies

back & shoulders

  • backaches
  • shoulder aches


  • asthma flareups
  • shortness of breath


  • sleep difficulties
  • decreased energy
  • weight gain or loss


  • arthritis


  • lowered fertility
  • menstruation


  • sexual dysfunction


  • bloating, cramping,

diarrhea and constipation

  • undereating or overeating
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • ulcerative colitis
  • ulcer
  • unborn baby’s risk of later developing mental illness

heart & blood

  • a pounding heart
  • high cholesterol levels
  • elevated blood pressure
  • high blood sugar levels


  • psoriasis
  • eczema
  • acne
  • hives
  • wrinkles, creases and other signs of aging


  • teeth grinding


  • neck aches
  • tight, dry throat

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