How stress affects your chronic health condition

Chronic health conditions can be challenging to manage under the best of circumstances, but when stress is added to the mix, the situation can become even more complicated. To mark National Stress Awareness Month this April, we explore how stress can affect chronic health conditions in many different ways, from exacerbating symptoms to making it more difficult to manage the condition effectively. Read on to see our tips on how to combat stress.

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Increased Symptoms

Stress can cause an increase in symptoms of chronic health conditions such as pain, fatigue, and digestive problems. This is because stress triggers the release of hormones that can exacerbate existing symptoms.

Stress can also accelerate the progression of chronic health conditions. For example, stress can increase inflammation in the body, which can worsen symptoms of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and diabetes.

Impaired Immune System

Stress can weaken the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections and illnesses. This can be particularly problematic for individuals with chronic health conditions that already compromise the immune system.

When the body is under stress, the stress response system is activated, which can cause the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The production of antibodies, which are proteins that help the immune system to recognise and fight off specific viruses and bacteria are also affected when the body is stressed.



Poor Sleep

Stress can interfere with sleep, making it more difficult for individuals with chronic health conditions to get the restorative sleep they need. This can exacerbate existing symptoms and make it more difficult to manage the condition effectively.

Ways stress can impact sleep can begin with challenges falling asleep, the quality of sleep achieved and lead to increase risk of developing sleep disorders.

Increased Healthcare Costs

Stress can increase healthcare costs associated with chronic health conditions. This is because stress can lead to more frequent visits to healthcare providers and increased use of medications and other treatments.


Difficulty Managing Symptoms

Stress can make it more difficult to manage symptoms of chronic health conditions effectively. This is because stress can interfere with adherence to treatment regimens, such as taking medication and following a specific diet.

Stress can also significantly reduce the quality of life for individuals with chronic health conditions. This is because stress can interfere with daily activities, social relationships, and overall well-being.

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Top takeaways to combat stress…

Practice relaxation techniques: Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can help to calm the body and mind and reduce stress.

Exercise regularly: Exercise is a great way to reduce stress as it releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters. Even light exercise like walking or stretching can be beneficial for reducing stress.

Prioritise self-care: Taking care of yourself is essential for reducing stress. This can involve setting boundaries, saying no to commitments that are causing stress, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in activities that you enjoy.

Seek support: Talking to a trusted friend or family member, joining a support group, or seeing a mental health professional can be helpful for reducing stress.

Explore treatments: Medical cannabis has been proven to help manage the feelings of stress and anxiety. The active compounds in cannabis, known as cannabinoids, interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating mood, stress, and anxiety. You can check your eligibility for treatment here.