Failing to manage stress and feeling consistently stressed out can take a serious toll on your physical and mental well-being. You may not even realize how stressed you are or the negative effect it’s having on your health. Although you might be tempted to manage things on your own, a trip to your doctor may put you on the path to feeling better.
Stress and Your Overall Health
Physical symptoms that seem random could be caused by stress. For example, do you often get headaches or an upset stomach? Are you having trouble sleeping? Have you been living with unexplained muscle pains? These could all be physical symptoms of stress. Physical signs that you’re overly stressed vary widely from person to person, but the Mayo Clinic has a list of common ones.
Stress doesn’t just cause short-term issues like stomach pain. We all experience times in our lives that are more tense than others, but constant stress can actually cause long-term health problems. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, constant stress has a number of dangers, including increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. It also suppresses your immune system, making you more likely to get sick.
When to See Your Doctor
Since the symptoms of stress can overlap with or mask symptoms of other illnesses, it’s always best to see your doctor if you’re having any new medical issues. Even if they seem minor — you’re not sleeping well or you’ve gained 10 pounds without an obvious reason — these changes may warrant scheduling a physical.
During the visit, your doctor can check for any medical conditions that could be causing your symptoms. They can also help you understand and manage stress that’s taking a physical toll. Remember that your doctor can only help if you share what’s happening in your life. Have things changed at work? Are you fighting more with your kids? Is your sex life declining? (This isn’t the time to be shy.)
Even minor changes at work or at home can have big effects on your health. Your doctor may recommend counseling or therapy to help you work through the challenges. They may prescribe certain medications to help you cope, as well.
Your doctor could also recommend lifestyle changes, like making exercise a part of your routine. And there’s a good reason why. According to the American Psychological Association, 62 percent of adults who use exercise to manage stress say it’s very or extremely effective. Meanwhile, only 33 percent of adults who watch TV to manage stress give the same rating.
You may be hesitant to see a doctor for stress. But doctors are there to help you achieve optimum health, and that means managing stress effectively. If you suspect stress is damaging your quality of life, it’s time to call your primary care physician. Sometimes, simply addressing the challenges you’re facing is the first step toward relief.