If your mind and body are constantly on edge because of excessive stress in your life, you may face serious health problems. Chronic emotional stress can affect virtually every organ system in negative ways, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH). Prolonged stress has been shown to cause numerous health problems, including:

  • Weakening of the immune system, making you more likely to have colds or other infections
  • High blood pressure
  • Upset stomach, ulcers and acid reflux
  • Anxiety
  • Increased rapid heart beat and heart palpitations
  • Panic attacks
  • Cardio-vascular problems
  • Increase in blood sugar levels
  • Irritable bowel problems
  • Backaches
  • Tension headaches or migraines
  • Sleep problems
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Respiratory problems and heavy breathing
  • Worsening of skin conditions, such as eczema

How to control caregiver stress

Stress is not simply a function of what you do. It's also a function of how you react. AgingCare.com has lots of information on how to deal with stress:

Know the Signs of Caregiver Stress
The first step in dealing with caregiver stress is to recognize the signs.

6 Surprising Ways to Instantly Lower Stress
Every day tasks that instantly lower your stress level.

6 Things You have At Home That Can Relieve Stress
No need to spend tons of money or time to de-stress. Here are six things that are probably lying aroundy your house right now, that can help you unwind and de-stress.

Get Better Sleep and Relieve More Stress
10 tips for the best sleep ever. start establishing better habits so you can consistently get quality sleep.

Facing reality: Caregiving has changed your life
Most caregivers go into caregiving mode with full hearts and wonderful intentions. They rarely stop to think, "Hmm, this could go on for years. I'd better plan it out.

Detaching With Love: Setting Boundaries in Toxic Relationships
How to break free from a parent who drains you.

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The Number One Reason Why Caregivers Get Sick

Stress and worrying can make you physically sick. Stress is a pressure cooker: Left un-attended it will boil over. Stress and worry are proven to affect your physical health and may even shorten your lifespan.

Severe, chronic stress takes a physical toll and can damage your body in many ways – everything from your heart to your immune system. Because it negatively impacts so many health conditions, stress could even shorten your lifespan. Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache or your upset stomach. But the culprit could be stress.

How does stress affect the body?

Our bodies have a natural "stress alarm system" that warns us and responds to perceived danger and threats.

According to the National Institutes on Health (NIH), when you encounter perceived threats, your hypothalamus (a region at the base of your brain) sets off an alarm system in your body, Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located near your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, NIH says.

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars in the bloodstream, enhances the brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol seems to "tune down" the immune system and make it less able to fight infection, as well as suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.

When the stressors of your life are always present, leaving you constantly feeling stressed, tense, nervous or on edge, your stress-response system is on overload. The long-term activation of the stress-response system can disrupt almost all your body's processes.