Stress Affects The Body: Is It Affecting Yours
Its Monday morning. You overslept, your kids were late for school, and your boss gave you a hard time because you came in 30 minutes after your shift began. At lunchtime, you head to a nearby deli, and its incredibly busy. After waiting in line for 15 minutes and placing your order, you realize that you left your wallet at the office. You head back to work hungry, sit down at your desk, your mind starts racing a million miles a second, and you cant think clearly.
The chaotic start to your week has made you incredibly stressed, and the anxiety is palpable. At this point, youre simply not able to produce at your full potential. You try to clear your mind, but youre struggling to calm yourself down which exacerbates the issue.
At some point or another, weve all found ourselves in these kinds of stressful situations. If youre like most people, you probably havent given much thought to stress other than the fact that its an inevitable part of life. What you might not know is that stress has a profound impact on the body, and those who underestimate or ignore stress do so at their own risk.
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.
The Effects Of Stress On Memory
Medina writes that short-term stress can actually improve memory. This is because the hippocampus, which stores memories, has a lot of receptors for the hormone cortisol, which is a hormone that your body produces during acute stress. Thus, during times of acute stress, you can retrieve information and solve problems more effectively because of the additional cortisol. Medina postulates that our brains have developed in this way because of the evolutionary need to remember how to respond to stressful situations and to think on our feet.
However, chronic stress affect your bodys memory by sending excessive amounts of cortisol to the hippocampus, which can disconnect neural networks. This causes memory loss and can prevent new cells from being createdand thus hurt your ability to form new memories.
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Stress And Mental Health
Chronic stress is incredibly closely linked with our risk of serious mental health conditions, and chronic stress, anxiety, and depression are closely related. Over time, chronic stress can make you more susceptible to mental and emotional illness. Some people find coping strategies that can actually make us more unwell smoking and drinking alcohol are common ways people try to handle stress.
Finding healthy coping strategies for stress isnt always easy, but its really important, says Dr McClymont. Exercise, mindfulness and talking therapies are excellent ways of dealing with stress. If you find yourself turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol or smoking, then be open about this with a doctor.
Theres No Doubt About The Fact That Anxiety And Stress Significantly Impact Physical Health And Wellbeing Including Skin Health
Your body sees all forms of stress as a threat to survival and so prioritizes them over all other functions.
This is why chronic stress has been linked to:
- Leaky gut and digestive disorders
- Increased inflammation and inflammatory diseases
- Inflammatory skin conditions like acne and eczema
and SO much more.
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Finding Your Path To A Less Stressed Life
Sadly, theres no magic stress solution that works for everyone. You might have to explore several different stress management tools and techniques before you find what works best for you. Dr. Howitt suggests taking it one small, manageable step at a time. “Set achievable goals, she explains. “Small changes can make a meaningful difference in how you experience stress both mentally and physically.”
Practicing self-care is always a good idea, but some people need more support. If something still doesnt feel right or you have questions about how to manage stress in positive ways talk to your doctor.
1 Kathrin Wunsch et al., Habitual and Acute Exercise Effects on Salivary Biomarkers in Response to Psychosocial Stress, Psychoneuroendocrinology, August 2019.
2 MaryCarol R. Hunter et al., Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers, Frontiers in Psychology, April 4, 2019.
3 Madhav Goyal et al., Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, JAMA Internal Medicine, March 2014.
4 Brian Chin et al., Psychological Mechanisms Driving Stress Resilience in Mindfulness Training: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Health Psychology, August 2019.
5 Getting Creative Really Does Boost Your Mood, Survey Suggests, BBC News, May 8, 2019.
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Stress And The Brain Function Complications
For a long time, researchers suggested that hormones have receptors just in the peripheral tissues and do not gain access to the central nervous system . However, observations have demonstrated the effect of anti-inflammatory drugs on behavioral and cognitive disorders and the phenomenon called Steroid psychosis . In the early sixties, neuropeptides were recognized as compounds devoid of effects on the peripheral endocrine system. However, it was determined that hormones are able to elicit biological effects on different parts of the CNS and play an important role in behavior and cognition . In 1968, McEven suggested for the first time that the brain of rodents is capable of responding to glucocorticoid . This hypothesis that stress can cause functional changes in the CNS was then accepted . From that time on, two types of corticotropic receptors were recognized . It was determined that the affinity of glucocorticosteroid receptors to cortisol and corticosterone was about one tenth of that of mineralocorticoids . The hippocampus area has both types of receptors, while other points of the brain have only glucocorticosteroid receptors .
Destructive effects of stress of CNS function
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When Should I Talk To A Doctor About Stress
You should seek medical attention if you feel overwhelmed, if you are using drugs or alcohol to cope, or if you have thoughts about hurting yourself. Your primary care provider can help by offering advice, prescribing medicine or referring you to a therapist.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Its natural and normal to be stressed sometimes. But long-term stress can cause physical symptoms, emotional symptoms and unhealthy behaviors. Try relieving and managing stress using a few simple strategies. But if you feel overwhelmed, talk to your doctor.
More Prone To Illnesses
The body is so intent on reacting to stress it can leave your immune system prone to illness. In other words, it can get too depleted and struggle to defend against viral or bacterial infections. The cortisol produced during stress reactions can decrease your lymphocytes, important white blood cells your immune system uses to fend off foreign invaders.
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Cultivate A Positive Outlook
Stress can put us in a negative mindset thats difficult to break free from. Something as simple as positioning a sticky note with a positive affirmation on your bathroom mirror can help you set up your day from a happier vantage point.
It can feel cheesy at first, but talking positively to yourself and reframing negative inner thoughts can also help encourage a clear mind and optimistic outlook. Positive thinking and self-affirmation have been shown to activate thebrains reward center.
Help Is Available For Stress
Stress is a part of life. What matters most is how you handle it. The best thing you can do to prevent stress overload and the health consequences that come with it is to know your stress symptoms.
If you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed by stress, talk to your doctor. Many symptoms of stress can also be signs of other health problems. Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms and rule out other conditions. If stress is to blame, your doctor can recommend a therapist or counselor to help you better handle your stress.
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What Are Some Symptoms Of Ongoing Stress
Short bursts of stress can keep you safe and even help you feel motivated. For example, the stress response could help you react quickly in an emergency situation, like avoiding a falling tree or a possible car crash.
But ongoing stress also called chronic stress can take a toll on your mental and physical health. This is because our bodies arent designed to hang out in the fight-flight-freeze zone for long periods of time.
Ongoing stress can lead to many different symptoms, including:
Excretory And Digestive Systems
Anxiety also affects your excretory and digestive systems. You may have stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. Loss of appetite can also occur.
There may be a connection between anxiety disorders and the development of irritable bowel syndrome after a bowel infection. IBS can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
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The Impact Of Chronic Stress
Everyday stress can have a negative impact on multiple areas of your life. However, when the stressful situation passes, you may find that things return to normal even if you didnt do anything to address your stress. This isnt the healthiest way to get through stress, but it happens this way for some people.
However, if youre experiencing chronic stress, its not going to just go away. It may not be tied to a specific situation in your life. Instead, it might be the result of poor habits or not knowing how to deal with past trauma. It will not just go away if left untreated.
Is It Possible To Get Cancer From Stress Or To Die From It
While its tough to link stress directly to a specific disease, we know that stress does contribute to serious illness, says Dossett. Forty percent of cancers are preventable with changes in lifestyle. Since stress makes you more likely to smoke, drink excessively, and eat in ways that cause obesity, its fair to say that there is a link between stress and disease, she says.
Maybe its no accident that most heart attacks occur on Monday the most stressful day of the week.
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Effects Of Stress On The Urinary And Excretory Systems
In an overactive bladder, the increased level of stress may lead to more rapid functioning and the need to urinate more frequently, leading to incontinence. In the long term, the specified effects may cause additional health conditions, such as bladder inflammation. Similarly, the excretory systems functioning is disrupted to a considerable degree under the influence of both short- and long-term stress. The specified effects are likely to aggravate until the stress factors are removed from an individuals environment, which is why the threat of kidney damage must be considered for those experiencing constant emotional distress.
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
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.
Effects Of Stress On The Nervous System
Being under the influence of stress-inducing factors, the nervous system also produces an immediate response. However, before assessing the effects of stress on it, one should mention that the nervous system is typically split into two main parts, namely, the autonomic and somatic ones . The former, in turn, is subdivided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems . The latter plays a direct role in activating the aforementioned fight or flight response as it sends signals to the adrenal medulla and the pituitary gland . As a result, the glands releasing cortisol, adrenalin, and noradrenalin are activated, causing immediate changes in the rest of the systems, particularly, the endocrine and the respiratory ones. Thus, the chain of immediate responses toward the emerging risk is launched. When affected by stress in the long term, the nervous system continues to respond, causing further deterioration of the body.
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Stress And Your Musculoskeletal System
Your musculoskeletal system includes your muscles, bones, joints, tendons and ligaments. They work together to help your body move but also to maintain its structure and stability.
When you feel stressed, your muscles tense and put pressure on your musculoskeletal system. Spending too much time in this state of tension can lead to painful conditions eg too much tension in your shoulders and back can cause headaches and migraines.
Ways Stress Affects Cognitive Functioning
Stress can have negative effects on your physical, mental, emotional, and cognitive health.
When we talk about the cognitive effects of stress, were referring to any manner in which stress affects your brains ability to complete tasks, both simple and complex.
Cognitive skills can include anything from solving problems to memorizing things.
Here are 5 specific ways that stress can affect your cognitive skills.
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What Are Some Ways To Prevent Stress
Many daily strategies can help you keep stress at bay:
- Try relaxation activities, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises and muscle relaxation. Programs are available online, in smartphone apps, and at many gyms and community centers.
- Take good care of your body each day. Eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep help your body handle stress much better.
- Stay positive and practice gratitude, acknowledging the good parts of your day or life.
- Accept that you cant control everything. Find ways to let go of worry about situations you cannot change.
- Learn to say no to additional responsibilities when you are too busy or stressed.
- Stay connected with people who keep you calm, make you happy, provide emotional support and help you with practical things. A friend, family member or neighbor can become a good listener or share responsibilities so that stress doesnt become overwhelming.
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Effects Of Stress On The Musculoskeletal And Exocrine Systems
As an immediate and instinctive response to stress, the muscles in the human body become tense. The specified reaction causes muscles to become the shield against a possible injury, also allowing one either to fight effectively or to run . The increase in muscle tension is spurred by the rise in the levels of cortisol, which is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex located in the adrenal gland . In turn, chronic stress causes muscles to be overly tense constantly, which may lead to long-term effects such as muscle cramps . Prolonged stress also affects the exocrine system in the long term, causing hair loss and brittle nails.
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