5 Effects of Prolonged Stress And How to Address Them

September 12, 2018

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Life can be awesome but let’s face it, life is also inevitably stressful. Thee will be occasions, every once in a while, where you will experience a chronic or acute stress. Stress can be helpful for you when coping with a serious situation or threat. However unlike acute stress, chronic stress is a long-term condition which can wreak havoc on your mind and body. We don’t want that to happen, so here is some information to help make sure you know what to do when you are feeling stress.


Chronic stress can destroy your brain cells. According to Psychiatry Advisor, it also leads to depression and increases the risk of dementia (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease). Depressed people usually have a small hippocampus. Stress can interfere with memory formation in the hippocampus and cause loss of prefrontal cognitive abilities. This can happen to a pregnant woman’s baby. Generalized anxiety can affect functions associated with memory.

Cardiovascular System

High cortisol levels can increase the heart rate, blood pressure, and blood lipid levels. Hypertension puts you at risk for heart attack or stroke. This is especially true if you are experiencing “broken heart syndrome.” Stress hormones contribute to the buildup of abdominal fat, which can give some people an “apple” shape. 

Digestive System

Stress hormones have a tendency of slowing gastric juice release and gastric emptying. If you have high cortisol levels, you can get hungry. We know what happens when you are always hungry, you will gain weight. This is really important to know because you can develop Type 2 diabetes under prolonged stress. Stress increases your chance of getting ulcers and cause the malfunctioning of existing ulcers. You can get diarrhea as your colon is stimulated, thanks to the stress hormones. According to The Farber Center, prolonged stress can also lead to teeth grinding or bruxism, can cause dental problems in the long-term, as well as sleep disruption and headaches. Do you want to go into an important meeting feeling this way? 

Immune System

Prolonged stress can suppress the immune system, making people more prone to infectious diseases (i.e. flu). Sometimes, stress can make the immune system excessively active instead, leading to autoimmune disease. I’m sure that you have noticed in the past that during times of stress, you tend to get sicker, picking up every little bug and flu going around. 

Nervous System

Increased cortisol amounts can make you feel constantly anxious, helpless, and hopeless. These symptoms can be confused with disorders such as anxiety and depression. They can also disturb sleep, take away sex drive, and reduce appetite.

How can you cope with prolonged stress?

Developing resilience through healthy coping methods can help you resist the effects of prolonged stress. You can curb the exacerbation of chronic stress by developing ways to successfully manage stress. If negative self-talk is getting in your way, take the Sears Coaching Self-Esteem Challenge to start putting yourself first.

Ask about my upcoming leadership retreat Sense of Self.


I’m The Corporate Fixer and my mission is to help people become more self-aware so that they can lead from a place of authenticity and self-acceptance.

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