To state the obvious: We’re living in a stressful age. And while sweaty palms, an increased heart rate, and racing thoughts now feel like the price to pay for existence, functional medicine doctor Robert Rountree, M.D., sees them as a real concern.
“Pick your disease, and stress is always there,” he said on the mbg podcast earlier this year. “Whatever illness a person comes in with, at some point I’m going to talk to them about how they manage stress.” Rountree doesn’t think stress causes disease, per se. Instead, he calls it “the great amplifier” of illness.
“If a person is already prone to having an irritable bowel, for example, and then they get super stressed-out, it’s going to amplify all of those symptoms,” he says. So in addition to causing symptoms like headaches and insomnia in the short term, stress can accelerate one’s risk of chronic disease further down the line.
“Can we make a case for some chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus or ulcerative colitis? Can we make a case for a relationship [to stress] there? Absolutely,” he says. “It can play a role in these diseases where there’s a more delayed response.”
It’s impossible—and ultimately, unhelpful—to try to avoid stress at all costs. Instead, Rountree says it’s all about finding stress management tools that work for you and sticking with ’em. Here are three that he has found success with over the years: