I'm a pharmacist – the 10 ways constant stress can wreak havoc on your body | The Sun

ARE Brits more reluctant to acknowledge they're stressed?

Ade Williams, superintendent pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy, certainly thinks that's the case.

Being 'emotionally stoic' is a 'national characteristic', he told Sun Health.

As a result, many a Brit shoves down feelings of stress, which Ade said can be caused by 'life changes, work pressures, family pressures', to name just a few.

Research by the Mental Health Foundation has found 74 per cent of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year, that they’ve felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

In fact, around one in 14 UK adults feel stressed every single day. 

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But Ade warned that constant stress can have a significant and detrimental impact on people's health.

Sadik Al-Hassan, superintendent pharmacist at Pilltime Bristol, added: "Stress not being managed in the body can cause a very large range of symptoms."

What effects can stress have on my body?

Sun Health spoke to three pharmacists about the ways stress could be taking its toll on your health and the ways you can address it.

They said constant stress can cause:

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  1. Headaches
  2. Muscle pain
  3. Stomach problems
  4. Chest pain
  5. Rapid heartbeats
  6. Sexual problems
  7. Allergies such as hay fever
  8. Sleeplessness
  9. Poor mental health
  10. Behavioural changes

“If your ‘house of health’ is built on a stress filled life and poor sleep, [then] it’s built on sand,” pharmacist Graham Phillips, owner of iHeart Pharmacy Group in Hertfordshire said. 

Sleep deprivation and stress go hand in hand, he added.  

And numerous studies have shown that a lack of sleep can have several nasty knock-on effects on your health. 

Most recently, researchers discovered that banking fewer than six hours of snooze a night can mean you respond less well to vaccines, alongside feeling shattered.

As for heart health, Dr Glenn Levine, professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine recently pointed out that 'chronic or constant stress is a key risk factor of heart disease and stroke'.

Ongoing stress can be felt in your gut as well, causing bloating, gas, diarrhoea or even vomiting.

Meanwhile, Sadik told said that stress doesn't just have physical symptoms

“It can also change behaviour, affect concentration and cause irritability,” he explained. 

What can I do address stress?

“The most important part of stress is actually recognising when it is the reason you are acting differently or not quite feeling yourself,” Sadik added. 

For Sadik, it comes down to identifying what’s causing you to be stressed in the first place. 

“Finding the reason for you being stressed can help you put things in place to help control and manage it,” he said. 

“One of the best things I can advise to help with stress is a regular exercise routine and setting aside some time for you.

"Setting smaller targets to break up big problems into smaller chunks might also help deal with stressful situations", he added. 

“If you are having trouble with stress in your life don't be afraid to talk about it and seek help,” Sadik said.

He pointed to several external sources if you’re looking for help to address stress, such as Samaritans, Mind and some free resources on the NHS website. 

“The NHS even has a self referral available online for free talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy,” he added. 

For Graham, it's not so easy to disentangle stress from your overall health.

“In modern medicine we treat illnesses separately. We fail to see the profound connection between them,” he explained. 

“But the body is not like a motor car where the engine (heart) is completely separate from the processor (brain).

“Everything is linked.” 

By doing things that improve your overall health, you can address your stress levels, he argued.

Make sure you're getting enough sleep – about eight hours – and make sure your quality of sleep is good, Graham said.

"Good sleep is the very foundation of our health," he stated.

Cleaning up your diet will also improve your overall health outcomes as well as stress, because 'we are what we eat', Graham added.

Above all, he recommended you stay away from junk food.

"I call it “ poison with added calories'," he said

Reducing your screen time could also bring down your stress levels, according to Graham.

"Take a walk instead," he said. "Walking is great for physical and mental health and even reduces dementia risk."

For Ade, tackling stress came down to challenging 'the notion it is unavoidable or even desirable' and 'tackling the British national characteristic of being emotionally stoic'.

Next thing is to find simple and accessible ways of relieving stress, he said.

This could mean taking breaks and practicing mindfulness.

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It's important to break 'the stigma and isolation associated with needing help and support', Ade added.

If you're struggling with stress, you can contact contact Samaritans. Call 116 123 or email: [email protected] if you need someone to talk to.

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