Shot of a young female nurse looking stressed out while standing at a window in a hospital
Print icon
share icon

3 effects of stress on the body and how to reduce stress in your daily routine

April 12, 2024
5 minutes
Lifestyle Health & Wellness
Healthy habits

Stress doesn't just affect your mind – your body feels the effects of stress as well. From a lowered immune system to aches, pains, and more, both chronic and acute stress can make it hard to feel your best. While some types of stress can be reduced, stress itself is unavoidable. That being said, you can reduce the impact of stress on your health by utilizing stress management strategies that allow you to mitigate the effects of stress on your body.

Here, we'll take a look at the different ways stress can affect you physically, as well as steps you can take to manage stress in a way that positively contributes to your overall well-being.

The physiological effects of stress on the body

Our bodies are great at dealing with small doses of stress, but chronic stress and severe acute stress can both be physically taxing. In addition to mood changes, unmanaged stress can lead to both acute and chronic conditions that can make it difficult to get through the day.

How stress impacts immune function

When the body experiences stress, the brain releases cortisol, a hormone that's great for boosting immunity – in the short-term. When your body regularly releases cortisol due to chronic stress, or repeated acute stress events, you may experience inflammation that makes it harder for your body to fight illness.

Failure to manage stress levels can result in a number of immune system issues, including arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, and inflammatory bowel disease. Many people find that when their stress is left unmanaged, they turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking, smoking, and overeating. These issues can create more stress in the body, creating a dangerous spiral.

The link between stress and cardiovascular health

Research shows that chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of stroke, heart attacks, and heart disease. A 2020 study showed that certain types of stress – including social isolation, marital stress, trauma, work stress, and childhood abuse – are more likely to contribute to an increased risk of a cardiovascular event than other types of stress.

Strategies for reducing stress in daily life

While it's impossible to avoid all stress and anxiety that comes with the pressures of day-to-day life, implementing strategies that work to control your stress levels can help you feel your best.

Incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Meditation, yoga, and mindfulness techniques can work to promote relaxation. There's no need to attend a yoga class or book a session with a meditation expert (unless you want to) – there are plenty of ways for you to reap the benefits of mindfulness when you're on a budget or have a tight schedule.

Using an app like Calm can provide you with guided meditations that you can easily listen to whenever you have a few minutes of downtime. In the mood to fit a quick yoga flow into your day? We love Yoga with Adriene's free, positive yoga videos that offer modifications that make it easy for yogis of all experience levels to enjoy the benefit of regular practice.

Establishing healthy boundaries and prioritizing self-care

Elevated stress over time can lead to burnout, which can make it difficult to work, enjoy relationships, and feel happy and healthy. While the idea of burnout is often work-related, it can also apply to romantic relationships, friendships, and family issues. Creating boundaries can feel difficult at first, but doing so allows you to say yes to what really matters (including your own self-care).

If you're dealing with an onslaught of work that's beyond your pay grade in the office, schedule a meeting to talk with your supervisor about the boundaries you need to set in order to avoid burnout. A similar approach can be taken with family and friends whose needs are pushing you to your limit. Having an honest, open conversation about your bandwidth and availability can help others understand that saying no to requests and invitations isn't about them – it's about you prioritizing your own needs.

Scheduling your self-care activities as appointments can help you to prioritize the activities that help you manage stress. Creating time in your calendar to enjoy a walk, cook a new healthy meal, or talk with a trusted friend can all help you lower your baseline stress levels so that you're better able to handle whatever life throws your way.

The role of exercise and physical activity in stress management

When you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed, exercise can feel like the last thing you want to add to your schedule. Making physical activity a regular part of your life, however, can help to lower chronic stress levels and better equip you to deal with acute stress.

The immediate physical stress of exercise can help teach your body how to work through tough situations, bolstering your stress management toolkit. Working out can also support your immune, digestive, and cardiovascular health, mitigating the negative effects of stress on these vital systems.

While going through a tough workout can be a great way to lower stress levels, even short bursts of movement can have health benefits. Going for a few ten minute walks throughout the day can be a time-effective way to enjoy the benefits of exercise without adding another item to your to-do list.

Nutrition and diet tips for stress reduction

Meeting your body's nutritional needs can ease the physical effects of stress. Eating regularly throughout the day can help to keep your blood sugar levels even, which can help to keep your body's response to stress under control. Cutting down on caffeine, adding high-fiber foods (like oatmeal, vegetables, and fruits) to your diet can also help boost your body's ability to withstand stress.

Evidation: Supporting your physical and emotional well-being

At Evidation, we use the data you provide to offer personalized insights, tips, and tricks that can benefit your well-being. Try implementing a few of the tips above to begin the process of building your stress management toolkit. Figuring out what works for you to manage stress levels can take some time, but it's well worth the effort. Stress management is a crucial part of a healthy life, and we're honored to help you feel your best. Learn more about how Evidation works and download the app today.

Healthy habits
Evidation on Apple App StoreEvidation on Google Play Store
Download app