Understanding Chronic Stress: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

To understand chronic stress, you must first understand what stress is. It is how your body reacts to situations and events that pose threats. All of us experience stress. It keeps us alert and away from danger in the survival mode. When the body and mind sense some kind of danger around the nervous system, it releases stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These situations require action or attention, causing physical and psychological stress. Chronic stress is a long-lasting phase where the body doesn’t get the chance to relax. 

What is Chronic Stress?

Chronic stress is a condition of stress that can negatively affect your physical and mental health. It can be overwhelming and make you feel like you are stuck in a combat situation for a long time, even when there is no threat. Over time, it exhaustes your body and mind. 

How Does Chronic Stress Influence Mental Health?

Mental health is widely influenced by chronic stress, as it increases cortisol, which triggers feelings of anxiety and nervousness. It always compels you to think the worst will happen, which can make you depressed over time. Stress clouds your thinking process, which makes it difficult for you to concentrate and make sound decisions that directly affect your personal and work life.


How does stress affect physical health?

Stress hormones wreak havoc on your physical health in many different ways, causing a decrease in energy levels. Constantly high levels of stress put pressure on blood vessels, leading to heart attacks, strokes, arrhythmias, and palpitations. Stress damages your gut health, triggering heartburn, ulcers, acid reflux, constipation, or constipation. It can cause skin and hair problems, like acne, eczema, psoriasis, and hair loss. Stress eating causes weight changes.

Causes of Chronic Stress

Stress can creep in from any direction and cause havoc on your physical and mental well-being. There are various causes of stress, but specific triggers will vary depending on the individual.

Financial troubles

Bill payments, debts, and household expenses can keep you awake at night, causing stress and worry. Tight finances can make you feel like you have lost control over your life and are unable to spend money when needed. Money can also put a strain on relationships, causing emotional turmoil. Chronic stress from financial problems can weaken your immune system. 

Relationship difficulties

Relationship issues can put you through emotional turmoil, which can be exhausting. It can trigger emotions like anger, sadness, anxiety, and loneliness and hamper your self-esteem. 

Constant fights, disagreements, or a lack of commitment can create a sense of instability. 


Retirement can cause an identity crisis, which can lead to anxiety and a sense of purposelessness. Living on a pension or savings can create financial worries, which is a constant stressor. Leaving the workplace can make you feel socially isolated. Aging often brings chronic health issues, adding another layer of stress to retirement. 

How Does Chronic Stress Differ from Acute Stress?

Acute stress is the stress experienced from minor inconveniences that we come across daily, such as traffic jams, criticism from the boss, loud noises, or losing essential items. Our body and mind recover from the stress once the situation passes and comes back to normalcy. Chronic stress has various root causes which linger in your mind for a longer time. You suffer from chronic stress that affects your personal life deeply, such as relationship issues, traumatic experiences, and a toxic work environment. Both types of stress affect physical and mental health, but chronic stress affects with more intensity and stays long-term. 

Recognizing Signs of Chronic Stress

It affects the whole body and has various physical and psychological symptoms that affect daily life and make normal functioning difficult. However, the severity of chronic stress symptoms differs depending on the individual and circumstances.  

Psychological Signs of Chronic Stress

When you are stressed, your mind suffers a lot, and there are various psychological symptoms start surfacing. Persistent worry can intensify the feeling of anxiety. Prolonged stress can show depressive signs like hopelessness, sadness, or loss of interest. Individuals become more prone to mood swings and irritability, which can lead to insomnia. They face difficulty in concentrating and have memory retention capabilities that get hampered. 

Emotional Signs of Chronic Stress

An individual suffering from chronic stress can be seen as demotivated and have a negative outlook on life. They cannot find pleasure in activities and are more susceptible to mood swings and irritability. Daily tasks become overwhelming for them, making it difficult for them to manage minor stressors. They get emotionally drained and isolate themselves from social interactions. 

Physical Signs of Chronic Stress

Chronic stress often leads to muscle tension, causing headaches, neck pain, and back pain. Gut health is also affected by stress, leading to indigestion and changes in bowel movements. Stress increases blood pressure and heart rate, elevating the occurrence of cardiovascular problems. Stress eating or loss of appetite is associated with chronic stress that leads to weight change. Various other problems like hair loss, weak immune system, and skin problems can be seen. 

Behavioral Signs of Chronic Stress

Nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing are common behavioral signs of stress. Individuals become restless, frustrated, and aggressive with chronic stress. They lose interest in their hobbies, distance themselves from social interactions, and procrastinate their work. Some even resort to substances to cope with emotions. Eating habits change, such as overeating or undereating. 

Strategies for Avoiding Long-Term Stress

For the prevention or management of chronic stress, various healthy habits, effective coping mechanisms, and a supportive environment need to be adapted to life. Let's dive deep into it. 

Practice mindfulness

This is an effective practice to manage stress as mindfulness helps us be present in the moment, making us more conscious of ourselves and our surroundings without any judgment. It helps us cultivate a sense of calm and awareness. To practice mindfulness, you can try meditation, slow walks with sensing each step, or just closing your eyes and paying attention to body parts. 

Set attainable goals

Setting goals provides a structured and measurable approach to improving overall well-being, but if you are chronically stressed, limiting your goals can be a relief. Start small and break down tasks so you can manage each step, which will help you achieve your aim easily. This will boost your confidence and keep you motivated. Identify any stressors which will help you address the root cause of the stress. Be flexible with work, always adapt and adjust accordingly.

Practice self-compassion

Treating yourself with kindness and understanding, especially during a stressful situation, will help you manage chronic stress. Avoid any self-criticism or negative self-talk, and try to use supportive and encouraging language. Developing self-affirmations will reinforce your self-worth and ability to cope with stressful situations.  

Effective Therapies for Chronic Stress

There are several effective therapies to manage chronic stress, but the choice of therapy depends on the individual’s cause of stress and any specific needs of the person. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

This therapy teaches you coping strategies against any situations, thoughts, or behaviors that lead to stress. It helps to identify and challenge the negative thoughts, replacing them with more optimistic ones. CBT also equips you with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation to effectively manage stress. It teaches you how to break down overwhelming problems into actionable steps. CBT encourages healthy habits like regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sleep hygiene. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

This therapy helps you face your fear with courage. It helps to acknowledge the validity of your emotions, even if they’re intense or negative, and emphasizes acceptance of your current situation. DBT teaches you mindfulness, which involves observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. It helps you gain perspective and avoid impulse behaviors. It also helps you learn how to regulate your emotions and identify triggers to develop coping skills. 

Relaxation Therapy

This therapy comprises various techniques that help in chronic stress treatment. It involves meditation, which teaches you various breathing exercises to regulate your stress and anger. This also includes yoga which is a combination of physical and breathing exercises that promotes relaxation and reduces stress. A very uncommon practice yet very effective, Tai Chi is a gentle form of exercise combining slow, graceful movements focused on breathing. Some other relaxation techniques include listening to music, guided imagery, and nature time. 

Empowering Yourself Against Chronic Stress at Mindtalk

At Mindtalk by Cadabams, we offer therapies and equip individuals with effective coping mechanisms to tackle the adversities of chronic stress. We understand how difficult it is to deal with stress on a daily basis. Our expert therapists will help you get back on track and lead a happy, fulfilling life. So reach out to Mindtalk if it has become too hard for you to handle stress on your own. We are here to support you and take you on the journey of self-acceptance. 


1. Is chronic stress a form of anxiety?

No, but they are closely related and can co-occur. When you experience prolonged stress, your body releases stress hormones that promote symptoms of anxiety. People with stress can develop anxiety. They also share a few similar symptoms, like fatigue, irritability, and insomnia. 

2. What are the therapies available for chronic stress?

There are various psychotherapies available for chronic stress, such as 

  • cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps identify and challenge negative thoughts to develop coping skills, and dialectical behavior therapy, which teaches you how to regulate your emotions and practice mindfulness. 
  • Relaxation therapy includes techniques like meditation, yoga, and muscle relaxation.

3. What are the Recognizing Signs of Chronic Stress?

Several physical, emotional, behavioral, and psychological signs can help you identify chronic stress. 

  • Physical signs - exhaustion, headaches, muscle tension, weight change.
  • Emotional signs -  irritability, worry, loss of interest.
  • behavioral signs - procrastination, nail-biting, fidgeting
  • Psychological signs - anxiety, depression 

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