How Stress and Fear Impact Your Health (+ 3 Ways to Find Relief)

November 29, 2020

If you were to describe the way the year 2020 has made you feel, there’s no doubt that words such as stress and fear would top the list. After all, it’s been one of the most tumultuous, uncertain times of our lives.

The simple truth is that almost no one alive today has experienced such an event before, so it’s only natural that stress and fear are such common emotions felt right now. But how does that impact your health?

Have you given any thought to the ways all of the stress and fear you’re experiencing about COVID-19 and all the ways it’s impacting your life may be affecting your health? I have, so I did a little research … and the findings were about what you’d expect.

So, let’s dive in and take a look at how stress and fear impact your health. But don’t worry—we’ll also review some tips for ways you can relieve some of those less desirable emotions.


Stress and Fear and The Impact on Your Health

If you had to guess, how often do you think people are experiencing stress and fear these days?

According to a poll published in April 2020, 60 percent of Americans report experiencing stress and worry every single day. The main contributors? Fear about health and economic concerns. [1]

And given these unprecedented times with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s really not a surprise, is it?

Between the unknowns of how the virus spreads, concerns about older and/or unwell family members, the lockdowns we faced in the spring and are facing now, the impact on our economy, and so much more, our current climate is completely filled with stress and fear.


Stress and fear - Dr. Pingel


Unfortunately, while we’re worried about our health, all of this stress and fear is also taking its own toll on our health—both physical and mental.

First, it’s been shown that the more people worry about their health, the sicker they tend to feel. [2] But why is that?

Well, fear is a form of psychological stress. And psychological stress is known to impair your immune system. [3]

In fact, numerous studies have shown that psychological stress significantly increases your chances of catching upper respiratory infections.

One study actually noted that people who reported commonly experiencing negative emotions (such as stress and fear) developed more severe symptoms and more mucus after exposure to the flu and rhinovirus. [4]

Additionally, a 2010 meta-analysis of more than 27 studies confirmed that those who suffer from more psychological stress are more likely to catch upper respiratory infections. [5]

But that’s not all. Psychological stress and fear have also been shown to impact your health in other ways.

In fact, studies have shown that those who experience more psychological stress are 21 percent more likely to have high blood pressure! [6]

Meanwhile, a landmark study published in 2017 revealed that stress is a strong risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The researchers discovered that moderate to high stress levels were associated with a 2.3-fold increase in the odds of developing type 2 diabetes in a three-year span. [7]

Finally, negative emotions such as stress and fear can also increase your risk of obesity. In fact, according to a 2015 study, higher levels of stress can cause you to gain an astonishing extra 11 pounds per year! [8]

Moreover, numerous studies have revealed that psychological stress is linked to visceral fat—a type of belly fat that’s stored deep within your abdominal cavity and known to cause inflammation around your organs. [910]

As you can see, stress and fear can definitely wreak havoc on your health. But here’s the good news: There are things you can do to help relieve the ways stress and fear impacts your health and wellbeing. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective things you can do starting today!

3 Ways to Relieve the Effects of Stress and Fear

Take a look at the top ways you can minimize the effects of stress and fear on your body.

1. Eat a diet full of calming foods.

Believe it or not, your diet is tied directly to your mood and disposition. And while eating certain foods won’t eliminate stress and fear from your life, it can help you to better manage them.

How? Well, studies have shown that having high levels of inflammatory markers are linked to stress-related disorders such as depression and anxiety as well as mood disorders such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. [1112]

Additionally, scientists estimate that anywhere from 90 to 95 percent of your body’s serotonin is produced in your gut. [13] As you may recall, serotonin is the neurochemical responsible for helping to regulate your mood, among other functions.

If you’re filling your digestive system with inflammatory food, it’s going to impact your serotonin production. So, what can you do?

First, you’ll want to avoid inflammatory foods and replace them with foods known to boost your mood and support serotonin production. For a list on what to avoid and what to include in your diet, click here.

2. Get moving.

You’ve probably heard that exercise releases endorphins, which are known to trigger positive feelings. But did you know that regular exercise also reduces your risk of chronic disease and lowers your risk of mortality?

Additionally, studies have found that participating in aerobic exercise on a regular basis can not only decrease your tension but also elevate your mood and self-esteem. [14]

Personally, I love to dance and do Pilates to help relieve any stress and fear I’m experiencing, but you can also try yoga, walking in nature, or any other fun activity.

3. Enjoy some down time.

Look, there’s no denying that life is stressful right now. But the last think you want is for the stress and fear you’re feeling to culminate in adrenal fatigue. So, I want you to take some time for yourself and try a few mind-body exercises.

One great way to calm yourself is to try meditation. Simply find a quiet spot—whether that’s in your yard, out on a nature trail, or even in your bedroom or closet—and practice deep breathing. Try to focus on your breath for at least five minutes. Odd are, you’ll emerge refreshed and ready to take on the day!

You can also try journaling. Sometimes writing down our biggest fears and concerns can help us to get a better hold on them. Just try to end your journal entry with something positive, such as your greatest blessings and things you’re most thankful for. This will help to leave you on a positive note as you go on to face the day.

Give each of these tips a try to help calm your stress and fear. And you can always return here to for extra tips and advice to help you live your healthiest life. Just remember—you deserve to feel your best, no matter the circumstances surrounding you!


Key Takeaways

  • According to a poll published in April 2020, 60 percent of Americans report experiencing stress and worry every single day. The main contributors? Fear about health and economic concerns.
  • Unfortunately, psychological stress and fear have been linked to an increased risk of catching colds and the flu as well as developing type 2 diabetes, gaining weight, and more.
  • Fortunately, you can help to minimize the effects of stress and fear on your body by eating a diet that includes calming foods, exercising, and enjoying some down time.
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