Friday, September 22, 2023

How Can Stress Affect Your Health

Q: What About Energy Levels

What is stress and how can it affect your health?

Dr. Sinha: Chronic stress can also make you tired. Your adrenal glands act like battery packs they provide energy-producing substances such as adrenaline on demand, a key part of the stress response. Unfortunately, many people overuse these limited battery reserves with endless work and personal demands, leaving them depleted. The result: fatigue.

What Are The Consequences Of Long

A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about. Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including:

  • Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
  • Obesity and other eating disorders
  • Menstrual problems
  • Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
  • Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon

How Do You Manage And Prevent Stress

There are plenty of ways to help manage your stress, or to help you prevent chronic stress in certain situations. Keeping your body healthy and fueled by eating right and staying active can help your body handle stress. If you are overly anxious, try going for a run or walk outside to release excess energy or even practice yoga to help your body relax. Overthinking can increase stress, along with not taking a break during a busy schedule. Meditation can aid your body to relax and help your mind calm down and to stop worrying.

Its also important to make time for hobbies that we enjoy. A lot of times, we cut out the fun in our lives when we are stressed. The fun activities help to put us in a good mood and keep our mind at ease. If you feel as if you are frequently at high levels of stress and have a difficult time calming down and enjoying your life, it may be a good idea to talk to someone about what is causing your stress. Talking aloud about your problems to a loved one or getting professional help may reduce stress levels and get you back on track.


1 Mental Health Foundation: Stress. Last updated March 26, 2021. Accessed July 9, 2021.

2 National Sleep Foundation: Stress and Insomnia. Last updated June 24, 2021. Accessed July 8, 2021.

3 Hale Plus Hearty: Natural Cure For High Blood Pressure. Last updated May 11, 2017. Accessed July 9, 2021.

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Ways You May Not Have Realized Stress Affects Your Body

Whenever you start feeling not like your usual self, it can be maddening to figure out the root of the problem. Is it a viral infection? Is it a bug going around the community? Is it poor sleeping habits? Am I just getting old? These are some of the common issues that may ruminate in your mind.

Sometimes, none of those questions apply. Instead, stress is the culprit. Yes, the same stress you deal with when completing daily tasks can also affect your body in ways you never realized. Well highlight some common areas that stress can directly or indirectly impact, as well as how stress can affect your immune system.

Ways Stress Can Affect Your Health

Physical Symptoms of Stress

Life Line Screening

Have you ever raised a teenager, bought a house, planned a wedding or had a deadline at work that you almost missed? Stress occurs more often than we think and can actually be a positive source of motivation helping us complete deadlines or push harder across the finish line. Stress may also be brought on by life changes such as moving, financial strain, job satisfaction or loss of a loved one. When stress is prolonged over a period of time, or not managed properly it often becomes chronic, which can impact your overall health. The good news? There are activities that you can do to reduce the impact that stress has in your life.

Here are 15 ways stress can affect your health:

Recommended Reading: How To Get Rid Of Stress Headaches

Physical Reactions To Stress Are Unfavorable To Mental Health

Not only is your psyche negatively affected by stress, but your body can also feel the effects. Many of these physical reactions, in turn, are detrimental to your mental health.

For example, stress can trigger headaches. The increased pulse and shallow breathing characteristic of stress also lead to feelings of fear.

Other pains can also occur. Often these are psychosomatic because your muscles tense under stress. It leads to tension.

Your digestion is also susceptible to stress. Here it can manifest itself as constipation, as well as diarrhea or even nausea and vomiting.

The consequences sometimes go beyond short-term symptoms. Years of high stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Stress can also cause conception problems for both women and men. For a couple who want to have children, this means enormous stress.

Increased Chance Of Cold And Flu

People exposed to common cold viruses are less likely to fight off the germs successfully if they have ongoing psychological stress in their lives.

Researchers believe stressed people’s immune cells may be less sensitive to a hormone that turns off inflammation, which could offer a clue to why stress can be correlated with more serious diseases as well.

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The Effects Of Chronic Stress

Your nervous system isnt very good at distinguishing between emotional and physical threats. If youre super stressed over an argument with a friend, a work deadline, or a mountain of bills, your body can react just as strongly as if youre facing a true life-or-death situation. And the more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it becomes to trigger, making it harder to shut off.

If you tend to get stressed out frequently, like many of us in todays demanding world, your body may exist in a heightened state of stress most of the time. And that can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.

Health problems caused or exacerbated by stress include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema
  • Heart disease
  • Affordable Online Therapy for Stress

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    Stress And Your Health

    How stress affects your body – Sharon Horesh Bergquist

    Stress is a reaction to a change or a challenge. In the short term, stress can be helpful. It makes you more alert and gives you energy to get things done. But long-term stress can lead to serious health problems. Women are more likely than men to report symptoms of stress, including headaches and upset stomach. Women are also more likely to have mental health conditions that are made worse by stress, such as depression or anxiety.1

    Read Also: What Is Tapping To Relieve Stress

    Ways To Relieve Stress

    • Meditate for five minutes. It will help clear your mind so you can devote your full attention to the task at hand.
    • Take a break. When youre feeling overwhelmed, take a few moments for yourself even if its just to sit down, close your eyes and breathe deeply.
    • Get support from friends and family. Having someone to talk to about whats causing your stress can lighten the load. Ask a friend to go for a walk with you after work or invite someone over for dinner when you have time to chat.
    • Do something physical. A good workout can help ease tension by releasing endorphins, the bodys natural feel-good chemicals. Exercise also distracts you from stressful thoughts and provides an outlet for excess energy.
    • Practice self-care. Adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as getting quality sleep, eating a healthy diet, and moving your body every day.
    • Practice mindfulness. Living mindfully is an underappreciated way to manage stress. Take advantage of it and youll be rewarded with better mental health even in the face of stress.

    The Consequences Of Constant Stress

    If stress perseveres over a long period of time, it usually has mental, emotional and physical consequences. If we ignore the signals from our body and permanent stressful situations determine our everyday life, this can lead to significant health impairments.

    Adverse effects on the course of existing diseases are also possible. Widespread attempts to cope with stress, such as smoking, alcohol and tablets, add to the negative health consequences.

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    Q: What Happens Physically During Times Of Stress

    Dr. Sinha: The stress response system was originally designed to keep people safe from environmental threats like hungry predators. Your bodys modern-day stress response is identical to that of your ancestors, preparing the body for a battle or a quick getaway, the classic fight or flight response.

    The body experiences a cascade of physical reactions, including:

    • An accelerated heartbeat.
    • Opening of lung airways to improve oxygen delivery.
    • Release of adrenaline to speed you up.
    • Release of glucose to power muscles.
    • Widened pupils to improve vision.
    • Lowered gastrointestinal activity so you can run, not digest.

    For your ancestors, stress response activation was key to survival:

    • Tight blood vessels prevented excessive bleeding.
    • Elevated blood sugar gave energy to flee or fight.
    • Stored belly fat provided extra calories needed during times of scarcity.
    • Increased pulse and breathing maintained alertness during a crisis.
    • Tensed muscles served as a shield to protect vital organs.

    Today, you rarely face a situation where you truly need to fight or flee. But your body still initiates the stress response in situations where there are no options for fighting or escaping: a traffic jam, a disagreeable boss or coworker, a looming deadline.

    In the modern, sedentary person, the same physiological stress responses your ancestors needed lead instead to high blood pressure, diabetes, central body obesity, palpitations and anxiety, and muscle tension and pain.

    Get Some Restful Sleep

    WebMD on Twitter: " You know stress can affect your emotions, but do you ...

    If youre having difficulty sleeping, you can try to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume and avoid too much screen time before bed. Write down a to do list for the next day to help you prioritise, but make sure you put it aside before bed. For more tips on getting a good nights sleep, read our guide How to sleep better.

    Also Check: How Can Stress Affect You

    It Hurts Heart Health

    Stress can put a lot of pressure on the heart when youre stressed, your heart pumps harder to distribute blood to make sure youre prepared to deal with threats, and that can cause long-term damage over time. Stress can cause high blood pressure and heartbeat irregularities, Dr. Ross tells Bustle. Being stressed is a risk factor for poorer heart health overall, with stressed people more likely to show symptoms of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and other heart issues over the course of their lifetimes. A study published in Circulation in 2019 also found that race plays a role in the relationship between stress and heart health in women over the course of their lives.

    Ways Stress Affects Your Health And Wellbeing And How You Can Manage It

    5 Ways Stress Affects Your Health and Wellbeing and How You Can Manage It

    Stress is one of the most common conditions that affect people of all ages. No one escapes its effects and for some, its a constant companion. Did you know that one out of five working Americans has one or more symptoms of burnout such as restlessness, irritability, or difficulty sleeping?

    Chronic stress doesnt just disrupt your mind it also negatively affects health. Stress can cause problems with digestion and breathing, as well as aggravates preexisting health conditions. There is also a negative correlation between chronic stress and poor health outcomes such as impaired immunity, increased blood pressure, and chronic fatigue, to name a few.

    Lets look at some ways stress can affect your health and some practical strategies for reducing its grip on your health and wellbeing.

    Read Also: How Can Mindfulness Help With Stress

    What Happens To Your Body When Youre Stressed

    When you encounter a stressful situation, your body responds automatically. Your brain sounds an alarm bell that tells your body to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into your bloodstream.

    As these hormones circulate, they help your body get ready to respond to a threat:

    • Your blood begins to pump more quickly and forcefully in your body.

    • Your lungs work harder to bring in more oxygen.

    • Your body makes more energy available.

    • Your muscles get ready to spring into action.

    • Your body diverts resources from systemic functions that wont be needed in that moment, like digestion and reproduction.

    When these stress-related changes happen in your body, you might notice:

    • Your heartbeat and breathing speed up

    • Your muscles feel tense

    • You feel warm or flushed

    • Your mouth goes dry

    • You have a hard time thinking clearly

    When To Get Help For Stress

    How stress can affect your oral health

    Stress is a normal part of dealing with what everyday life throws at you. But stress can complicate things when it becomes chronic. As outlined above, repeated stress can lead to many future health problems.

    If you feel like youre losing control or have issues getting through the day and typical tasks, contact your primary care physician to discuss ways to reduce your stress. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health provider to provide further assistance. The INTEGRIS Health Mental Health Clinic can help you navigate your troubles with treatment options, free anonymous online screenings and other resources.

    Read Also: How To Eliminate Stress Eating

    You Experience A Hormonal Cascade

    The instant you begin to feel stressed, your body starts to react, Dr. Ross tells Bustle. The first response to stress begins in the hypothalamus in the brain, which sends signals to the pituitary gland and the adrenal medulla. They start a hormonal cascade, she says. The cascade released hormones throughout the body and includes the stress hormone cortisol. As it spreads, it causes increased heart and breathing rates, a heightened pulse, higher blood pressure, and more sweat, all of which are designed to help us cope with threats and danger.

    A study published in 2019 in Seminars In Cell & Developmental Biology found that this cascade even affects the microglia, a type of nerve cell in the brain and spinal cord. After the danger passes, your body is meant to reduce these hormones to normal levels, but if youre under a lot of stress all the time, though, they stay at elevated levels constantly.

    And 10 Strategies To Help You De

    By Gary Kim, MD, internal medicine physician at The Portland Clinic.

    A little bit of stress in life is normal your body and brain are designed to handle it. But when stress wears on you continuously without letting up, it can overwhelm your ability to cope and can cause all kinds of problems, including:

    • Muscle tension, which can increase headache and arthritis pain
    • Upset stomach, diarrhea and acid reflux
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Weakened immune system, which leads to more colds and other illnesses
    • Worsening of most chronic medical conditions
    • Increased flare ups of eczema, psoriasis, acne and other skin conditions
    • Higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure
    • Self medication through alcohol or drug abuse
    • Over- or under-eating, contributing to obesity or malnutrition

    According to WebMD, 75 to 90 percent of all doctors office visits are for stress-related problems. While your doctor is here to help, there are a lot of things you can do, as well, to reduce the toll of stress on your life. Here are 10 strategies to try:

    1. Get physical

    If you do nothing else, at least give exercise a try. It really does reduce stress, elevate mood and improve many stress-related problems. Start with a daily 10-minute walk, and build up to 30 minutes of any activity you enjoy.

    2. Take a breather
    3. Keep a stress diary
    4. Learn the magic word
    5. Stay connected
    6. Schedule time to disconnect
    7. Meditate
    8. Do some lifestyle housecleaning
    9. Sleep on it

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    How To Reduce Stress Levels

    Some of the stressors in our lives are things that we can take some practical control over some of them are not. When we cant take away the thing thats causing us stress, we need to find ways of responding to that stress without becoming unwell. Some good ways to reduce stress can include:

    Sleep wellGetting enough sleep and sticking to regular hours can make a huge difference to how well we cope with everyday stress. Remember that stimulants like late-night screen time, alcohol, big meals and nicotine can stop us getting to sleep. Caffeine can still affect us around 6 hours after drinking it, so cut out the coffee early in the afternoon.

    Stay in touchEven when you dont feel like it, trying to maintain your social life is important. It might even help to talk to friends and family about whats going on in your life, but if youre not comfortable with that, just socialising with them can help you feel more positive.

    Eat wellOne of the best things we can do for our physical and mental health is to eat a healthy diet. This means lots of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, and lean proteins.

    MeditateBreathing exercises and mindfulness techniques have become popular stress-management strategies over the last few years, and theyre supported by good clinical evidence.

    Get outsideEven a little bit of time outdoors can energise us, help us maintain a good sleep pattern, and improve our mental and physical health. Exercise is particularly good for stress relief.

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