Health And Wellness

5 Subtle Ways Stress Completely Screws Up Your Life

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stressed man overwhelmed with work

You might intellectually grasp that stress is bad for you but not understand how heightened levels of cortisol — a hormone released from chronic stress — can negatively affect your body's ability to function. When you're stressed, everything feels bigger than it is and it's harder to get any work done, especially the thing causing your stress. 

RELATED: 3 Common Health Conditions You Probably Had No Idea Are Caused By Stress

Here are 5 subtle ways stress completely screws up your life:

1. Physical illness

If you're constantly getting sick, psychological stress might be to blame.

Scientists are currently researching the link between chronic stress and a compromised immune system; some studies have shown that certain stress hormones secreted by the body affect the thymus's ability to stimulate and coordinate white blood cell activity, a major influence on your body's ability to ward off illness. The more stressed you are, the more likely you're going to be coughing from a sickness that you really don't need right now.

2. Heart disease

After a recent Dutch study examined cortisol levels among the elderly, researchers found that stress significantly increases your chance of having cardiovascular issues, namely heart disease.

RELATED: 14 Super-Simple Ways To Relieve Stress In 5 Minutes Or Less

3. Obesity

Stress-induced weight gain is a real issue for millions of Americans who turn to food for solace. Chronic stress eaters tend to choose unhealthy foods, even when they're not hungry. Finding new places to channel nervous or stressed energy beyond snacking — or worse, binging — can dramatically alter an overeater's relationship with food. When you feel stressed, you feel like everything is out of your control. One thing you can control is the amount of food you can eat. The more stressed you are, the more you're eating. 

4. Depression

Chronic stressful life situations can increase the risk of developing depression if you aren't able to cope.

Focusing on all your obligations and never getting a chance to relax or unwind can leave you sad and anxious, emotions that are tough to kick. Talking to a therapist about prioritizing your life or how to take a peaceful perspective in the face of adversity can help you beat depression and get back to feeling positive.

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5. Menstrual problems

If your cycle has had a mind of its own, stress might be behind these changes. Consistent stress can greatly affect your menstrual cycle. Your period might come on unexpectedly, be put off a few weeks, or stop altogether, even if you're on birth control.

If this proves to be a constant problem, talking to your gynecologist is a necessity.

While living a stress-free life is impossible, knowing when to take a step back to unwind can keep you happy and healthy. If you know you're stressed out but not sure how to deal, check out ways to reduce stress ASAP.

RELATED: 18 Quick Ways To Relax Instantly, According To Science

Lizzie Fuhr is a contributor to YourTango who writes on health & wellness.

This article was originally published at Popsugar Fitness. Reprinted with permission from the author.