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How Stress And Anxiety Affect The Body

Articles On Stress Management

How Stress Affects Your Body and Mind

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.

If you’re constantly under stress, you can have physical symptoms, such as headaches, an upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pain, and problems with sex and sleep.

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.

Leading Causes Of Stress

Stress occurs for a number of reasons. The 2015 Stress in America survey reported that money and work were the top two sources of stress for adults in the United States for the eighth year in a row. Other common contributors included family responsibilities, personal health concerns, health problems affecting the family and the economy.

The study found that women consistently struggle with more stress than men. Millennials and Generation Xers deal with more stress than baby boomers. And those who face discrimination based on characteristics such as race, disability status or LGBT identification struggle with more stress than their counterparts who do not regularly encounter such societal biases.

The Mind And Mental Health: How Stress Affects The Brain

Stress continues to be a major American health issue, according to the American Psychological Association. More than one-third of adults report that their stress increased over the past year. Twenty-four percent of adults report experiencing extreme stress, up from 18 percent the year before.

Its well-known that stress can be a detriment to overall health. But can stress actually change the physiology of the brain? Science says yes.

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What Is An Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety describes a group of disorders that cause worry, nervousness, and fear. These feelings of anxiety interfere with everyday life and are out of proportion to the triggering object or event.

In some cases, people are unable to identify a trigger and feel anxious for what seems like no reason.

While mild anxiety can be expected in some situations, such as before an important presentation or meeting, persistent anxiety can interfere with a persons well-being.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders represent the most common mental illness in the United States and affect 40 million adults in the country every year.

While these disorders respond well to treatment, but only 36.9 percent of people with an anxiety disorder receive treatment.

Types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder excessive anxiety for no apparent reason that lasts for 6 months or longer
  • Social anxiety fear of judgment or humiliation in social situations
  • fear of being away from home or family
  • Phobia fear of a specific activity, object, or situation
  • Hypochondriasis persistent fear of having serious health issues
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder recurring thoughts that cause specific behaviors
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder severe anxiety after a traumatic event or events

Stress And Your Nervous System

How Stress Affects the Body

When it comes to stress, everything begins in your brain. When you are confronted with danger, like nearly being hit by a car, your brain sends a distress signal to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This is where your brain calls the shots for your automatic functions, sending orders to the rest of your body. When you’re stressed, adrenaline signals your body to rev up its heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing. Your senses become sharper, and your brain becomes more alert.

This all happens in an instant. But stress causes long-term effects too. A hormone called cortisol is released, which keeps your body on high alert until the threat passes. For some situations and some people, though, stress levels remain high even after a perceived threat is gone. This leads to chronic stress.

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What Can You Do About It

Learning about the effects of stress on the body and how to manage stress will help you to feel happier and healthier in the long run. Coping with stress is about trying to solve the problems that are within your control and learning to accept the things you cant change. Weve come up with four questions to ask yourself the next time youre feeling stressed, to help you decide on your next move.

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Anxiety, either about a current situation or forthcoming event is a normal bodily reaction to stress. This reaction begins in the Amygdala – an area in the brain which sends distress signals to the hypothalamus. These signals are then communicated to the rest of the body to evoke a fight or flight response.

Physiologically, a positive stress response is short-term, when the adrenalin hormone, an increased heart rate, blood flow to the brain, and consequent rush of oxygen collectively forces us to concentrate on the problem and cope with it in a constructive manner.

However, long term repetitive stress responses to anxiety, excessive, and undue worry about a number of situations in every day life – such as, apprehensions about arriving late at work due to traffic, a failed deadline, a lost or misplaced item, a crying child, dread of examination or interview stress, fear of meeting a person or socialising, a missed appointment, and so on – can trigger a series of stress responses causing damaging emotional, and actual physical reactions in your body.

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Stress And Your Brain

Not only is chronic stress taxing to the body, but it can significantly affect your mind as well. Stress paves the way for mental and emotional conditions, and it can also impair your cognitive functions because of the changes it makes to the structure of your brain. Some of the brain-related effects of stress include the following:

  • Memory problems: Chronic stress causes your hippocampus and amygdala to be less efficient and unable to produce new nerve tissue. It can also reduce the size of your hippocampus, which can lead to decreased verbal and spatial memory abilities.
  • Learning problems: The changes in your hippocampus and amygdala may result in decreased decision-making and processing abilities that we discussed above. It can also cause challenges in how you learn and increase the odds of developing behavioral and mood disorders.

Behavioral Interventions In Chronic Disease

How stress affects your body – Sharon Horesh Bergquist

Patients dealing with chronic, life-threatening diseases must often confront daily stressors that can threaten to undermine even the most resilient coping strategies and overwhelm the most abundant interpersonal resources. Psychosocial interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral stress management , have a positive effect on the quality of life of patients with chronic disease . Such interventions decrease perceived stress and negative mood , improve perceived social support, facilitate problem-focused coping, and change cognitive appraisals, as well as decrease SNS arousal and the release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex. Psychosocial interventions also appear to help chronic pain patients reduce their distress and perceived pain as well as increase their physical activity and ability to return to work . These psychosocial interventions can also decrease patients overuse of medications and utilization of the health care system. There is also some evidence that psychosocial interventions may have a favorable influence on disease progression .

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Excretory And Digestive System Problems

Stress and anxiety will also affect your digestive and excretory systems. It can lead to nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramping, and a host of other digestive issues. While some people overeat because of stress, some lose their appetite, leading to weight loss and other problems like malnourishment or dehydration.

There might also be a connection between anxiety disorders and developing a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome after a bowel infection. IBS can induce diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation. Without treatment, it can become severe. Again, speak with your doctor about any recent stress in your life that is potentially causing these symptoms.

Top Effects Of Anxiety On The Body And A Few Natural Remedies

Anxiety can have a number of different effects on the body, all of them bad. When youre anxious, it affects nearly everything from your thoughts and emotions to your blood pressure and your muscles. Thats why its so important to learn how to handle stress and anxiety in a healthy way. Fortunately, there are a number of natural remedies that will help you overcome your anxiety. Lets take a look at some of the effects of anxiety and some natural ways you can deal with it, such as by taking red horn kratom.

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Major Anxiety Disorders Include:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder , is when you get anxious about most every day situations and are unable to remember the last time you were in a relaxed mental state. This state of anxiety is caused by an imbalance in the brain chemicals that are involved in the regulation of a persons moods, serotonin, and noradrenaline a combination of past trauma such as violence, abuse, or bullying chronic pain condition or hereditary factors, among others.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can cause a person to have obsessive, intrusive thoughts that can be distressing or an overwhelming desire or compulsion to perform a routine repeatedly. This could be reflected in his or her habits, be it cleaning or washing hands unnecessarily, arranging items in a drawer in a certain way, folding away clothes, etc.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder , caused after a particularly stressful period such as being in a war zone, surviving an attack or a tragic accident, or incident due to a natural disaster, and so on.
  • Phobias, experienced due to an excessive and irrational fear of a creature, place or event, such as bees, spiders, heights, the dark, tight spaces, fire, and so on.
  • Panic Attacks, cause irrational and heightened anxiety periods accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, cold hands and feet, inability to breathe or hyperventilate, etc.

Improving Your Ability To Handle Stress

How stress affects your body

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.

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All of these outcomes and impacts of short-term stress have been known for decades. But, perhaps the more critical concern is the impact of chronic stress on our ability to think clearly and make good decisions. Stress hormones have a negative impact on the part of our brain that we need for:

  • Evaluating alternatives and making good business decisions
  • Having productive and thoughtful conversations with our family members, community members and others whose help we might need as we move forward during challenging times

These physical health, brain function, and decision making impairments often create a vicious cycle. When we find it difficult to make well-thought-through decisions and to move forward, sometimes this can lead to choices that might have less than desirable outcomes. A poorly contemplated decision can cause even more stress which further fuels this response. This cycle can lead to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and other concerns, which then in turn may also be connected to depression and the risk of suicide. Fortunately, all these changes that occur under high stress can be managed and reversed, though it takes multiple tactics and strategies to tackle the issue holistically.

Stress Stinks What Can You Do About It

  • Stress is a fact of life. A 2017 American Psychological Association survey found that a whopping 80% of respondents reported experiencing at least one symptom of stress over the past month.1 Does this describe you?
  • Sometimes we stress over good things, like a long line at a brunch spot, a new job, an upcoming wedding, or a new baby. And other times its over not-so-good things like being sick, working too much, or family drama.

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Stress And Bathroom Habits

Stress can change the way your intestines absorb nutrients, and how quickly food moves through your body. In this way stress can lead to either constipation or diarrhea. It doesn’t help that stress provokes you to eat more greasy and sugary foods, often in the form of processed foods. These foods can make your gut leaky, causing additional problems like inflammation.

Chronic stress can change the bacteria in your digestive system as well. Bad bacteria begin to replace the good bacteria, which can be killed off. With different bacteria available, the foods you eat begin to digest differently. One study showed that women with irritable bowel syndrome experience worse digestive symptoms when stressed out, and that their stress is strongly associated with anxiety and depression.

The best ways to ward off these problems include exercising and maintaining a healthy diet (especially one containing fiber. However, until you get a handle on your stress, these problems are likely to continue.

Shoulders Head And Jaw

How does STRESS Affect the Body?

The effects of stress in your body can move through the tension triangle, which includes your shoulders, head and jaw.

Stress can trigger tension headaches, tightness in the neck and jaw, and knots and spasms in your neck and shoulders, says Dr. Lang. It also may contribute to TMJ, a jaw disorder.

Ask your doctor about remedies such as stress management, counseling or anxiety-reducing medicine.

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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.

The Negative Effects Of Stress And Anxiety On The Body

Do you hear that? Its your alarm clock going off and reminding you its Monday morning and time to wake up after a relaxing weekend. Before it hits you, theres a moment of relaxation until it all hits youthe week is here yet again. That feeling of peace is immediately followed by stress, remembering the deadlines you have to meet this week, meetings, and anything else going on. The tension and dread follow you around as you get ready to leave, making breakfast for yourself and others if you dont live alone. Although these feelings of stress, which can lead to anxiety, are relatively normal, they are still wreaking havoc on your body.

Anxiety is considered the most common mental illness in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , an estimated 40 million adults over age 18 struggle with the condition, equating to a staggering 18.1 percent of the entire U.S. adult population. Despite its treatability, only 36.9 percent of people with anxiety will seek help, making them three to five times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who dont have anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, the condition stems from a complex set of risk factors, including brain chemistry, genetics, personality, and life events.

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Sometimes Stress Isn’t So Bad

Stress gets a bad rap for good reason. It can cause physical problems like skin rashes and high blood pressure. It can lead to mental health problems too, like anxiety and depression. But we feel stress for a reason, and sometimes it is good for you.

The stress you feel before a big test or job interview can motivate you to succeed. It can even save your life stress from a dangerous situation can provoke a fight-or-flight reaction that raises your adrenaline and motivates you to act quickly. Sometimes stress gives you the quick pulse and alert mind you need to stay out of danger.

Whether stress helps or harms your body depends on many factors. One is whether your stress is acute or chronic. You know acute stress when you feel it–the way your heart races right after a car crash, or the sudden jolt of energy you get when you see a snake or spider. Acute stress goes away soon after the stressful cause is gone. But chronic stress is another story. The muscle pain that sets in after months of demanding work, the constant nausea you may feel during a financial crisis, and the uncontrolled weight gain you experience during a long, unhappy relationship can all be signs of chronic stress.

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