How Physical And Emotional Stress Affects The Body
Stress will significantly affect your health, both mentally and physically, which will lead to headaches, sleeplessness, and chronic aches and pain in the body. It will also lead to feelings of anxiety and depression and will reduce your energy and productivity levels. Untreated stress will eventually contribute to health conditions that branch out to every part of your body throughout the day and night. Here is how physical and emotional stress affects the body and the mind.
What Is Stress?
- Acute Stress
Acute stress is defined by the onset of symptoms of anxiety associated with a severe traumatic event that created a dissociative reaction. Some professionals refer to it as fight or flight reactions. When stressed, the body produces hormones called norepinephrine and epinephrine which do not disrupt your bodys well-being. Once over, the body returns to its normal function.
- Chronic Stress
Chronic stress relates to feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression over an extended period. In response to the stress levels, the endocrine system releases cortisol which leads to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, gastrointestinal issues, cancer, and hormonal imbalances.
How Does Stress Affect The Body?
What Are The Signs That I Should Look For?
- Unusual Physical or Behavioral Changes
- Patterns Of Anger Or Outbursts
- Urges To Overeat, Binge, Or Purge
- Use Of Tobacco, Alcohol, Or Drug UseWithdrawal From Social Activity
- Physical Inactivity
It Can Turn Your Hair White
Old wives tales often cite people whose hair turned white overnight after a huge scare or shock and while that might not be common, research published in Nature in 2020 found that there is some evidence that stress can directly cause hair-whitening in mice. According to the study, the bodys fight-or-flight system negatively impacts melanocyte stem cells, which live in hair follicles and color our hair.
Melanocyte stem cells die as we age anyway, causing gradual whitening over time, but the 2020 study found that stress accelerated the process. Stress can potentially change your hair color, but its hard to predict exactly how.
Busting stress is a good way to reduce its effects on your body and physical health. Creating daily rituals will help reduce unwanted stress, Dr. Ross tells Bustle. She suggests trying yoga, meditation, mindfulness, massage, psychotherapy, or a combination of approaches youll probably have your own individual ways of relieving stress, whether its doing a few laps in a pool or sitting in the lotus position for an hour. And the results will relieve your body as well as your mind.
What You Can Do
Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, but may also protect your health long-term.
In one study, researchers examined the association between positive affectfeelings like happiness, joy, contentment and enthusiasmand the development of coronary heart disease over a decade.6 They found that for every one-point increase in positive affect on a five-point scale, the rate of heart disease dropped by 22 percent.
While the study doesnt prove that increasing positive affect decreases cardiovascular risks, the researchers recommend boosting your positive affect by making a little time for enjoyable activities every day.
Other strategies for reducing stress include:
The American Psychological Associations Practice Directorate gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David S. Krantz, PhD, Beverly Thorn, PhD, and Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, in developing this fact sheet.
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Stress Effects On The Body
Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems.
Stress effects on the body.
Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on your body.
When the body is stressed, muscles tense up. Muscle tension is almost a reflex reaction to stressthe bodys way of guarding against injury and pain.
With sudden onset stress, the muscles tense up all at once, and then release their tension when the stress passes. causes the muscles in the body to be in a more or less constant state of guardedness. When muscles are taut and tense for long periods of time, this may trigger other reactions of the body and even promote stress-related disorders.
For example, both tension-type headache and migraine headache are associated with chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck and head. Musculoskeletal pain in the low back and upper extremities has also been linked to stress, especially job stress.
Relaxation techniques and other stress-relieving activities and therapies have been shown to effectively reduce muscle tension, decrease the incidence of certain stress-related disorders, such as headache, and increase a sense of well-being. For those who develop chronic pain conditions, stress-relieving activities have been shown to improve mood and daily function.
Stomach Ache Or Stressed Out
Stress can affect your digestive system in a few ways.
During the stress response, your liver produces extra glucose, which gives you an energy boost. If your body stays in a constant state of stress, it may not be able to keep up with the extra glucose and this can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The symptoms of stress can also upset your digestive system. In fact, youre more likely to have heartburn or acid reflux due to an increased amount of stomach acid. While stress doesnt cause ulcers, it can increase your risk for them and may cause existing ones to flare up.
Stress can also change the way food moves through your body. It may cause diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting or a stomach ache.
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How Stress Can Affect Your Body
Your nervous system causes hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to be released. These increase your heart rate, your blood pressure, and the glucose levels in your bloodall of which enable you to respond quickly to danger. Too much stress can lead to
irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, insomnia
Your muscles tense up to protect you from injury. Too much stress can lead to
body aches and pains, tension headaches, muscle spasms
You breathe faster to take in more oxygen. Too much stress can lead to
hyperventilation and shortness of breath, as well as panic attacks in those who are prone to them
Your heart beats faster and harder to distribute blood throughout your body. Blood vessels dilate or constrict to direct blood where your body needs it the most, such as in your muscles. Too much stress can lead to
high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke
Your glands produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which help the body react to stress. Your liver increases your blood-sugar level to give you more energy. Too much stress can lead to
diabetes, lower immunity and increased illness, mood swings, weight gain
The way your body processes food is disrupted. Too much stress can lead to
nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation
Stress can affect sexual desire and function. Too much stress can lead to
impotence, disrupted menstrual cycle
Articles On Stress Management
You’re going to have some stress in your life — we all do, and it’s normal. One of the best things you can do for your health is manage that stress, even when you canât control the source of it.
Some stress can be good. It can be a challenge that keeps us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger. But too much stress can make us sick. And it can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases, research shows.
Stress can also lead to emotional problems, depression, panic attacks, or other forms of anxiety and worry.
It’s not just the stress itself that’s the problem. It’s how you respond to it.
For instance, if you smoke, use drugs, overeat, gamble, spend too much, or have risky sex, that’s going to cause more problems.
If you think that the way youâre handling life’s stress is taking a toll on your physical health, talk to your doctor so you can start making changes that will be good for your body and your mind.
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Is Stress Always Bad
Feeling stressed can be normal, healthy and helpful depending on the situation. Stress is the fight-or-flight response that gets you through job interviews, impromptu speeches and those awkward encounters with your ex. In these situations, stress helps you to overcome a short-term challenge that you know you can handle. Its only a problem when its constant or the situation is out of your control. At times like these, its important to know how to cope with stress.
How To Deal With Stress
If youve been dealing with a lot of stress lately, you should strongly consider taking proactive action to alleviate it so that you can live your best life. Some easy ways to do this include improving your diet, getting more exercise, getting a better nights sleep, and taking up a new hobby.
In most cases, you should also think about a two-pronged approach to stress management that includes both your medical doctor, who can address any acute or life-affecting physical symptoms and a therapist, who can work with you to relieve the cause of your symptoms and learn how to handle stress and anxiety in a healthier way.
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Improving Your Ability To Handle Stress
Get moving. Upping your activity level is one tactic you can employ right now to help relieve stress and start to feel better. Regular exercise can lift your mood and serve as a distraction from worries, allowing you to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, and dancing are particularly effective, especially if you exercise mindfully .
Connect to others. The simple act of talking face-to-face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress when youre feeling agitated or insecure. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe your nervous system. So, spend time with people who improve your mood and dont let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life. If you dont have any close relationships, or your relationships are the source of your stress, make it a priority to build stronger and more satisfying connections.
Engage your senses. Another fast way to relieve stress is by engaging one or more of your sensessight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement. The key is to find the sensory input that works for you. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee? Or maybe petting an animal works quickly to make you feel centered? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so experiment to find what works best for you.
Take Apple Cider Vinegar
Cortisol can trigger sugar cravings. Too much sugar can cause several issues to the bodys systems.
For example, an overload of sugar can flare up skin issues. Seeing acne, oily skin or other skin issues can make you feel even more stressed . If cortisol has already flared up, start calming skin with a natural, plant-based moisturizer.
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What Makes Us Stressed
Many things that can lead to stress: bereavement, divorce or separation, losing a job or unexpected money problems. Work-related stress can also have a negative impact on your mental health. People affected by work-related stress lose an average of 24 days of work due to ill health.
Even positive life changes, such as moving to a bigger house, gaining a job promotion or going on holiday can be sources of stress. If you feel stressed in these situations you may struggle to understand why or be unwilling to share your feelings with others.
Who Is Affected By Stress
All of us can probably recognise some of the feelings described above. Some people seem to be more affected by stress than others. For some people, getting out of the door on time each morning can be a very stressful experience, whereas others may be less affected with a great deal of pressure.
Some people are more likely to experience stressful situations than others. For example:
- people with a lot of debt or financial insecurity are more likely to be stressed about money
- people from minority ethnic groups or who are LGBTIQ+ are more likely to be stressed about prejudice or discrimination
- people with disabilities or long-term health conditions are more likely to be stressed about their health or about stigma associated with their condition.
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What Influences Our Capacity For Coping With Stress
Several factors influence our capacity for coping with stress:
- The presence of a social network
- Our skill and confidence in assessing a complex situation and then developing and evaluating solutions
- Personal variables such as physical health, experience, confidence, anxiety threshold and problem-solving abilities .
Stressful events are a universal part of the human experience. You may or may not be able to change your current situation, but you can take steps to manage the impact these events have on you.
How Can You Reverse The Effects Of Stress On The Brain
Chronic stress can cause you to view more situations as stressful, as well as limit the ways youre able to respond to stressors.
Developing new ways of reacting to stress could help you build new connections in your brain that, over time, help you cope better. Approaches include:
- Practicing meditation.Research from 2019 found that 4 days of meditation resulted in changes to the brain that made it more resilient against stress. Even after 3 months, participants had maintained their new mental strength.
- Using prebiotics. A 2017 animal study suggests prebiotics found in many fermented foods could help people manage stress-related behaviors by keeping the paths on the brain-gut axis healthy and clear.
- Trying mindfulness-based stress reduction.2016 research found that 8 weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction increased activity in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex while decreasing activity in the amygdala, helping with emotional regulation.
- Going for a quick jog. Running for just 10 minutes can help boost executive functioning and increase blood flow to the prefrontal cortex.
- Working with a therapist. Forms of talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy could make the amygdala less reactive, meaning it could slow down your fight, flight, or freeze responses to stress and allow you to form new ways to manage stressors.
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Effects Of Stress On The Body
Its normal to feel stressed sometimes, but if you always feel under-the-pump it can have a really negative impact on your mind and body. This is because stress is supposed to be a short-term response to danger and not a constant state of being. If you know the signs that youre experiencing stress, youll be better placed to keep it under control.
How Stress Affects Sleep
This infographic from Insider Living shows how stress affects sleep.
- 26% of women report trouble sleeping at least once a week compared to only 16% of men.
- 19% of individuals ages 25-64 admit to losing sleep due to stress a few nights per week.
- 54% say that stress or anxiety increased their anxiety about falling asleep at night.
- 52% of men and 42% of women reported that stress affected their ability to remain focused the next day.
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How Stress Affects Your Body From Your Brain To Your Digestive System
Its one thing to feel occasional stress. But when youre constantly under pressure and have no way to cope, your risk of developing serious illness climbs. Heres what you need to know about the long-term effects of living a stressed-out life.
If youve ever felt stressed out , you already know that being under pressure can affect your body, either by causing a headache, muscle tightness, or flutters in your chest making you feel down in the dumps or leaving you ravenous for chocolate or robbed of all appetite.
But these stress symptoms are merely the signals of the deeper impact that chronic stress can have on every organ and system in your body, from your nervous and circulatory systems to your digestive and immune systems.
Recovering From Chronic Stress
Identifying your triggers is a good start in recovering from chronic stress. Here are some other actions to consider:
References: 1https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/stress-disorder, 2https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/neuro/conditioninfo/parts, 3https://open.lib.umn.edu/humanbiology/chapter/3-2-parts-of-the-nervous-system/, 4https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response, 5https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987, 6https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/stress-disorder, 7https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation, 8https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469, 9https://exploreim.ucla.edu/nutrition/eat-right-drink-well-stress-less-stress-reducing-foods-herbal-supplements-and-teas/
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How Can You Help Yourself
If you’re feeling stressed, there are some things you can try to feel less tense and overwhelmed.
1. Recognise when stress is a problem
Its important to connect the physical and emotional signs youre experiencing to the pressures you are faced with. Dont ignore physical warning signs such as tense muscles, tiredness, headaches or migraines.
Think about whats causing your stress. Sort them into issues with a practical solution, things that will get better with time and things you can’t do anything about. Take control by taking small steps towards the things you can improve.
Make a plan to address the things that you can. This might involve setting yourself realistic expectations and prioritising essential commitments. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help and say no to things you cant take on.
2. Think about where you can make changes
Are you taking on too much? Could you hand over some things to someone else? Can you do things in a more leisurely way? You may need to prioritise things and reorganise your life so youre not trying to do everything at once.
3. Build supportive relationships
Find close friends or family who can offer help and practical advice can support you in managing stress. Joining a club or a course can help to expand your social network and encourage you to do something different. Activities like volunteering can change your perspective and have a beneficial impact on your mood.
4. Eat healthily
5. Be aware of your smoking and drinking
8. Be mindful