How Stress Impacts Your Overall Wellbeing

We all experience stress at some point in our lives. Although some stressful periods can come and go, it is important to consider that excessive stress can have an impact on our overall well-being.

In 2018, 74% of adults in the UK felt ‘unable to cope’ from high levels of stress. During this Stress Awareness Month, as part of our mental health awareness aim, we want to raise awareness about the impacts of stress.

We’ll be discussing the long term and short-term effects of stress, as well as some signs you should consider which indicate you are experiencing stress.

What are the short-term effects of stress?

Body aches

Excessive tension in our body can lead to stress headaches, also known as tension headaches. Some individuals experiencing stress may also get stomach aches and muscle aches.

Although painkillers can relieve the discomfort, the only way to properly cure these issues is to destress.

Poor sleep quality

During periods of stress, our brains are overworked and we may be constantly thinking about the stressors in our lives. Unfortunately, this can negatively impact the quality of sleep that we get. We may find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Quality sleep is one of the most important things for our physical and mental health. Lack of sleep can lead to a number of complications.

Mood fluctuations

Stress can impact our mood. We may experience a range of negative emotions along with stress. This includes anxiety, sadness, irritability, anger and even depression.

Difficulty thinking straight

Stress can negatively impact our cognitive function. When we’re stressed, a large portion of our thinking capacity is focused on our stressors. During periods of high stress levels, we can find it difficult to remember things, concentrate or make decisions.

Decreased immunity

Stress can impact our immunity, meaning we are more likely to contract viruses and infections. Fighting off any illness may take longer than usual due to the low immunity.

What are the long term effects of stress?

Cardiovascular diseases

Stress can increase blood pressure which can cause an individual’s heart to work overtime. Over a long period of time, this can have detrimental impacts to a person’s cardiovascular health, leading to complications such as hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

Digestive issues

Stress releases hormones in the body that can cause our organs to function differently. Chronic stress can lead to issues such as IBS, stomach ulcers, acid reflux and more.

Reproductive complications

Stress can interfere with reproductive health through hormonal imbalances. An individual experiencing chronic stress can deal with fertility issues and menstrual irregularities.

Serious mental health issues

If left untreated, stress over long periods of time can lead to serious mental illnesses that can be more difficult to treat. Examples of this are depression, PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders and more.


Stress can increase the level of cortisol in the body, which can increase insulin resistance, which leads to high blood sugar levels and fat storage. Furthermore, many stressed people may overeat and under exercise which can lead to obesity.


Prolonged stress can lead to cognitive decline which puts individuals at risk of developing Alezheimers.

What are two warning signs of stress?

It is important to pay attention to the warning signs of stress so you can address the issue before it becomes serious. If you spot these signs in your behaviour or someone else’s, it is time for a stress management intervention to improve mental health.

  • Body Pains
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Sadness
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgement.
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Isolating oneself
  • Procrastinating
  • Neglecting responsibilities.
  • Substance Abuse
  • Changes in social interaction

How to reduce stress

If you’re feeling stressed, it is important to tackle the issue and deal with the stress before it becomes too late and you experience some of the long term side effects. It is important to relieve stress early, so if you spot any of the above signs, it is time to prioritise your mental and physical health and get to the root of the problem.

A few things you can do to manage stress and boost your emotional health is to stay physically active, indulge in hobbies, socialise with friends and family and practice mindfulness.

Shawmind is an early intervention charity. We’re on a mission to improve mental health awareness. Our ‘Understanding Stress’ course can give you the skills and knowledge you need to manage stress.

As a charity, we rely on your donations to provide schools with mental health education. Please consider donating here.

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