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Hello Idaho: Stress can make you physically sick, but you can prevent it

Dr. Dennis Woody with Optum Idaho says some stress is good for you but you can't let it overwhelm you for too long.

BOISE, Idaho — Stress can actually make you sick. Headaches are common, but even running a temperature can stem from too much stress.

Everyone experiences some level of stress as they go about their lives.

"Simply put, stress is normal," said Dr. Dennis Woody, senior clinical program consultant for Optum Idaho.

But too much stress for too long, though, can make you physically sick.

"It's typically the result of perceptions or circumstances that are in the environment that we're having to contend with that haven't shut off and so as a consequence what is designed to be a short term survival skill turns into a circumstance where it's on all the time and it's really not designed to do that," Woody explained.

Chronic stress can affect many different systems in the body, causing cardiac, gastrointestinal and even reproductive issues.

"It is something that we can manage with some training," Woody said. "Learning how to relax your body physically. It's more than lying on the couch and closing your eyes. It's something you can learn to contend with and people do even though the stressful circumstances continue."

The reality is stress is good for us at certain levels. We just can't let it take over.

"The more control we see ourselves having over our own body's response, the better position we are to handle that stress and I think that's something that everyone, even children, can learn to do," Woody said.

He also recommends positive thinking and finding gratitude as helpful ways to minimize stress. 

Exercising and enjoying the company of pets can also help. 

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