Research has revealed that the presence of even minor psychological distress increases chronic disease risk. Learn more about what psychological distress is, how it can increase your risk of developing a myriad of health issues and what methods you can employ to reduce stress levels.

What is Psychological Distress?

Everyone experiences feelings of tension and sadness from time to time. However, mental health professionals opine that psychological distress occurs when these negative emotions linger for an extended duration and significantly interfere with an afflicted person's ability to perform routine tasks such as working or executing mundane daily tasks.

Even Minor Psychological Distress Increases Chronic Disease Risk 1The symptoms of psychological distress can manifest in several ways including lack of concentration and focus, irritability, angry or violent outbursts, sleep disturbances, fatigue, memory difficulties, headaches and the inability to remain still or comfortable. It is important to note that stress does not have the same definition for everyone. What certain people believe is stressful, others might not. Moreover, stress will not manifest in all of those stricken with it in the same way.

Psychological stress may be caused by any one or a combination of several personal, biological or environmental factors. Some common stressors include job pressures, health concerns, life changes (death of a loved one, marriage, divorce, the birth of children, job loss/promotion), financial constraints, social standing and personal appearance.

That said, other more involuntary triggers might impact someone's stress levels. Involuntary triggers often take the form of genetics and life experiences. Certain individuals are affected by variations in the genes that control the body's reaction to stress. Even the slightest variation could have a significant impact upon how one perceives and reacts to stress and tension. More serious stress reactions could also be felt by persons who have experienced traumatic events such as child abuse, involvement in a tragic accident or participation in combat.

How Distress Increases Chronic Disease Risk

When the human body is faced with a stressful situation, it reacts by releasing hormones that help the brain and other internal organs react accordingly. This is known as the natural stress response. Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol heighten the activity of many bodily systems and the impacted person is better equipped to deal with the circumstances he or she may be facing. However, when stress is a constant presence is someone's life, the natural stress response acts abnormally.

The continual influence of high stress levels often precipitates inflammation within most, if not all of the body's cells, tissues and organs. Such an occurrence could lead to any number of chronic health problems ranging in severity from minor to life-threatening. Specific illnesses include digestive difficulties, weight gain, headaches and other bodily discomfort, high blood pressure and cardiovascular illnesses like coronary artery disease, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, diabetes, various autoimmune disorders and certain types of cancer.

How Can Stress Be Alleviated Or Overcome?

Knowing the potentially severe impacts repeated stress can elicit on the body, it is important for everyone to either try and limit their exposure to stressful situations or at the very least learn coping techniques. There are numerous ways stressed individuals can employ to bring tension levels down including:

Consuming a Balanced Diet

While eating healthy foods will not eliminate stressful situations, employing this practice will fill a tense individual's body with energy-building and disease-fighting nutrients that could prevent stress-related illnesses from developing.


Routine physical activity, even light exertion such as walking or stretching not only keeps the body in shape but enables stressed persons to clear their minds and release tension in a productive manner.

Talk Yourself Through It

Some mental health professionals encouraged individuals coping with stress to employ a practice called positive self talk. This positive psychological ploy can be accomplished when a tense person tells him or herself positive, reinforcing words or phrases such as "These challenges will pass," and "You have been through worse situations before and emerged."

Practice Breathing Techniques

Even Minor Psychological Distress Increases Chronic Disease Risk 2Mastering specific breathing techniques is not only relaxing but may help the body utilize oxygen more efficiently.

Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

Substances like drugs and alcohol may provide a "quick fix" but, over the long haul, will not address the root causes of stress and have the potential to precipitate a host of health problems.

Eliminate Stress Wherever Possible

Avoid unnecessary avenues of stress. Certain unavoidable potential stressors like work and family obligations are hard to escape. However, one can avoid extra possible stressors by declining to participate in non-vital or unimportant activities that could require someone to expend much time and energy.

Make Time for Yourself

Once per day or several times per week, a stressed person must devote a specific amount of time to a relaxing pursuit he or she enjoys as a means of clearing the mind and enabling the body to settle down.

Use Natural Stress-Limiting Products

Adaptogens are natural ingredients which can be found in various nutritional supplements that are believed to possess stress-limiting properties. Adoptogens are natural substances that contain elements designed to help the human body identify and react to any specific stressful situation it might encounter. Some of these substances include lavender, maca, passion flower and eleuthero, all of which can be found in powerful natural products such as Macabido.