According to the American Institute of Stress, about 33% of people regularly feel extreme
stress. Then again, the fact that an American Institute of Stress even exists should be enough to
tell you that stress is a serious problem in our country. If you feel like you’re struggling with it,
you’re clearly not alone!
A little stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be a motivational tool, and can even offer a
quick boost to your immune system. However, too much stress can come with a slew of
Most notably, stress can take a negative toll on your physical and mental health. If you already
have certain health conditions, the stress you’re under could be exacerbating them, causing
your symptoms to flare and become worse. Unfortunately, that creates a vicious cycle – the
worse you feel, the more stressed you’ll be. The more stressed you are, the worse you’ll feel.
So, what can you do? It’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate stress from your life.
However, there are effective ways to de-stress and find some peace, so you can keep your
symptoms in check.
Let’s look at five conditions your stress may be making worse, and a few ideas you can use to
let go of stress.
For most people with acid reflux, symptoms tend to flare when you eat something acidic or high
in fat. However, extreme stress can make the brain more sensitive to acidic levels. It can make almost
any food cause your symptoms to get worse, and you may even experience symptoms without
having to eat anything at all. Some of the most common include:
● Chest pain
● Difficulty swallowing
● A burning sensation in your chest
● The feeling of a “lump” in your throat
If your symptoms get out of control, there are plenty of medication options for acid reflux,
GERD, and other digestive issues. However, if you feel like they’re regularly getting worse
because of stress, the best thing you can do is find ways to relax, in addition to maintaining a
IBS is another condition that is often largely affected by what you eat. However, stress is a
strong emotion and can trigger your brain to turn on pain receptors in your gut and colon. While
stress can’t cause symptoms of IBS to show up, it can make your existing ones much worse,
causing awful abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
Psoriasis is widely accepted as an immune system issue. Stress can weaken your immune
system while releasing chemicals that contribute to inflammation in your body. While it can’t
cause the condition, it can easily cause your symptoms to flare up, contributing to things like
Stress affects your skin health, in general. Not only does it release chemicals that can make
psoriasis worse, but it often breaks down the outer layer of your skin, making you more
susceptible to uncomfortable (and unsightly) symptoms.
It should come as no surprise that stress can take a major toll on your mental health. If you
already struggle with depression or anxiety, stress can make it feel impossible to keep up with
treatment or healthy coping habits.
In general, men tend to have a more difficult time with anxiety and depression, largely due to the
stigma surrounding mental health and treatment. If you’re dealing with extreme stress that can
make your symptoms worse, you’re more likely to fall into a negative cycle where you
experience regular symptoms of these conditions, including everything from feelings of
hopelessness to excessive worry.
Not only can stress exacerbate your existing mental health condition, but it can contribute to
causing it, in the first place. If you’re not able to effectively manage your stress, it’s easier for
your mind to start thinking the worst, and it’s much more difficult to break the cycle of those
There are over 30 million people in the U.S. dealing with heart disease. Some have more mild
cases than others, but when cardiovascular issues aren’t dealt with, they can be extremely
serious and dangerous. If you already have a cardiovascular condition, stress doesn’t help.
Too much stress can contribute to:
● High blood pressure
● Chest pain
● Irregular heartbeats
Some studies have shown that too much stress can even increase the risk of a heart attack, so
it’s essential to find ways to lower your stress that will also boost your heart health. Some
people use negative coping methods, including overeating, smoking, or drinking. Not only are
those “masks” that won’t really lower your stress, but they can do more harm than good to your
If you know stress is making your condition(s) worse, don’t wait to take action. Managing stress
might seem easier said than done, but there are small things you can do each day to promote
relaxation in your life, including regularly exercising and eating nutritious food. Try extracting as
many nutrients as possible from the foods you already enjoy, and consider changing your
dietary habits to eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, rather than processed foods.
You can also reduce your stress by meditating, participating in hobbies you enjoy, and spending
time with your pets and loved ones.
Create realistic goals and expectations for yourself. Often, extreme stress is exacerbated when you
spend too long focusing on the big picture and start to feel overwhelmed.
Because stress can impact everyone differently, it’s important to note that management
techniques work differently for everyone, too. Self-care might not seem like a big deal, but it’s
essential to finding more relaxation and peace in your life. Don’t be afraid to try different things
every day that you genuinely enjoy and that help you feel more relaxed.
Whether you’re dealing with an existing condition or trying to lower your risk of developing any
serious health issues, start by finding little ways to reduce your extreme stress levels throughout the day.
Changing a few habits and starting small can end up making a big difference in improving your
mental and physical health.
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