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Stressed out? The REAL damage stress is doing to your body

stressed out

Stress. It’s something we’ve all felt, and will no doubt feel again. Of course, it isn’t all bad- we need moderate levels of stress to motivate us into action and meet those impending deadlines. In fact, a hormone called cortisol, which is often associated with stress, helps us get the day going by spiking in the morning and levelling off during the day (as part of the Cortisol awakening response). However, in today’s ever-demanding world, it is more and more common for these cortisol levels to remain high all day- leaving us feeling constantly stressed out. This stress manifests itself in our bodies, causing harm to our physical health in many different ways. Below are 6 of the main impacts stress can have on our bodies- some of which are sure to shock you…

My head is pounding…

Let’s begin with one of the most common symptoms of stress: stress headaches. Multiple studies suggest that stress can be a predisposing factor contributing to the onset of headaches. And not only that, being stressed out can also increase the severity of the pain/ache you experience (1). So, if you’ve ever felt your head pounding at work or after a long day- this could be why!

I’m breaking out…

Acne has also been closely linked with stress. It has been found that high stress levels can trigger the onset and increase the severity of acne, particularly in young adults. For example, a study found that 67% of students found their acne dramatically worsens during examination periods (2) – a highly stressful time I’m sure we can all relate to. Furthermore, stress can also worsen other skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema. 

I’m gaining belly weight…

Other than acne, stress can further impact the appearance of our bodies. In fact, it can affect where we deposit fat. Those under constant stress are more likely to gain visceral fat around their waste, more commonly known as pesky ‘belly fat’. Aesthetics aside, this can also make you more vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases and type two diabetes.

I’m always ill…

There are also much more serious consequences that stress can have on our physical health. When your stress button is constantly ‘on’, your immune response is suppressed- making your body less able to detect and fight infection. This causes us to become more vulnerable potential illnesses. This is particularly harmful for those already experiencing a chronic illness, such as cancer, where studies have found that high stress can affect the body’s ability to repair DNA. Moreover, stress has been linked to faster rates of HIV progression and AIDS onset.

Wait, is being stressed out the whole time dangerous???

Other than compromising your immune system, stress can be very dangerous for your body. For example, due to the surge in hormone levels that result from being stressed out, high blood pressure has also been related to stress (3). This can be particularly dangerous because high blood pressure increases the likelihood of heart attack or stroke. And the bad news doesn’t stop there… heart disease has also been linked to consistently high stress levels.  

And it’s affecting my gut???

Finally, though you may not know it, your stomach and its microbiome are particularly vulnerable to stress. If you’ve ever had butterflies, before public speaking or going on a first date for example, then you’ve experienced first-hand the sensitivity of your stomach to stress. Unfortunately, this stress can be more dangerous than it seems. Corticotrophin releasing factors (CRF), the fancy name for a hormone that is released when your brain registers stress, can cause gut inflammation. Sometimes referred to as the ‘silent killer’, inflammation is a catalyst for many chronic illnesses. Leaky gut syndrome, where the barrier preventing harmful bacteria entering your blood stream is compromised, can also cause a whole host of health problems due to the imbalance in your microbiome. To learn exactly what happens when your gut microbes are imbalanced read our article on this topic. And if you find yourself experiencing any of these problems then, don’t worry- we are here to help! Check out RYH to get your body back on track… 

Don’t panic!

So, it’s pretty clear that stress has the potential to be VERY harmful to your physical health. Of course, this article is by no means meant to scare you into cutting out every potentially stressful scenario from your life, but instead simply to highlight why being stressed out the whole time isn’t great for your body. Thankfully, we have you covered- simply read our article on how to reduce stress to ensure a healthy and happy body!


  1. Nash JM, Thebarge RW. Understanding psychological stress, its biological processes, and impact on primary headache. Headache. 2006;46(9):1377-1386.
  2. Chiu A, Chon SY, Kimball AB. The Response of Skin Disease to Stress: Changes in the Severity of Acne Vulgaris as Affected by Examination Stress. Arch Dermatol. 2003;139(7):897–900.
  3. Devereux RB, Pickering TG, Harshfield GA, et al. Left ventricular hypertrophy in patients with hypertension: importance of blood pressure response to regularly recurring stress. Circulation. 1983;68(3):470-476.