How stress can impact your health and tips to balance it

Stress is natural, normal and can even be beneficial on the odd occasion. But the problem is that so many of us are experiencing stress at unnatural levels, and far too often in recent years.

One study found that Kiwis spend over half an hour per day feeling stressed – that’s just over an entire week every year spent on worry.

As Kiwis, it’s basically a hallmark of our culture to be laid-back and carefree, but that’s simply not the reality for so many of us. Here’s a little more on how stress can impact your health, signs and symptoms to look out for, and how to wrangle stress like a South Otago shearer wrangles sheep.

The impact stress can have on your overall health (and why it’s so important to manage it)

It’ll come as no surprise to learn that stress isn’t exactly a superfruit smoothie when it comes to your overall health.

Health and Safety New Zealand outline some of the most common impacts that stress can have on your health, including short-term issues such as raised blood pressure, an immune system that doesn’t even try to protect you from the cold going around your household, and headaches. However, there are also much more serious implications, such as cancer, diabetes, strokes, heart disease, and depression.

To make matters worse, illnesses and health problems that occur due to stress often have the added unpleasantness of creating even more stress.

That’s why stress isn’t something we should just suck up or say “she’ll be right” about. These health issues run the gamut from mildly annoying to life threatening, so feeling the effects of stress is not the time to be staunch – it’s the time to be sensible.

Signs and symptoms of long-term stress

Feeling stressed and wondering if it’s starting to show? Here are the common signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • a rapid heartbeat
  • poor sleep
  • feeling anxious or jittery often
  • chest pains
  • an upset stomach
  • relying on energy drinks or coffee to keep going
  • snapping at loved ones all the time 
  • regular headaches 
  • an increased number of minor health issues such as colds, asthma, ulcers etc
  • not eating enough, eating poorly or eating too much

Strategies for coping with stress

The first thing anyone needs to understand (but especially the traditionally staunch Kiwis) is that taking the time and effort to deal with stress is neither selfish nor pointless. By looking out for yourself you’ll be better able to look out for others, and anything you can do to reduce your stress levels are well worth the effort.

With that in mind, see if any of these strategies might work for you.

Schedule time for relaxation

We schedule everything else these days, and if you don’t make time for it, it probably won’t happen. Schedule in 30 minutes a day (or more if you can manage it) simply to relax, whether that means reading a book, watching a TV show, scrolling through funny videos on your phone, or sitting in the sun with a snack.

Make regular exercise a habit

Regular exercise actively reduces your body’s stress hormones, so a brisk walk or an at-home workout are like medicine for your stress levels.

Those workouts also encourage your body to create endorphins, which are your body’s natural mood enhancers and pain killers. So no matter how you get your exercise, it can do wonders for your stress levels and overall wellbeing, and this is one of the best and simplest ways to de-stress in times of uncertainty.

Prioritise eating well

Stress can make your body start to fall apart, with a lowered immune system, poor sleeping habits, and other health issues. By eating poorly you’ll only make those issues worse, but a good diet can help to negate some of those effects.

For example, eating a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and nutritious vitamins can help to support your immune system, avoiding too much caffeine and sugar during the day can also help you to sleep better at night.

Even though everyone gets stressed sometimes, keep in mind that no one should be stressed all the time.

Take steps to reduce your stress levels any way you can for your health and happiness - and if getting organised with all sorts of plan Bs helps to reduce your stress levels, we’ve got a simple funeral insurance option to tick off your life admin list. This will help you feel a little less stressed and a lot more on top of things.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only. You should always seek your own medical advice from your doctor or health professional.