When To Get Help For Stress
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.
And Makes Painful Situations Feel More Painful
Being in psychological pain makes it all that much more difficult to deal with the realities of physiological pain. In one study of 284 patients with chronic low back pain published in the journal Pain Medicine, scientists found that both anxiety and depression were associated with greater amounts of pain and more pain-related disabilities.
Disturb The Sleep Cycle
The first of top effects of stress on the body is to disturb your sleep cycle. It can negatively impact on the quality of your sleep and cause disturbed sleep. As you know, sleep is a vital part to ensure your good health and sleeplessness may hugely cause negative impacts on both your mental and physical health. Day by day, it can make you suffer from chronic health diseases as well as cause negative impacts on your life quality. Stress is the reason causing hyperarousal which is known to break down the balance between wakefulness and sleep and thus causing sleep conditions.
A study published in 2004 indicated that those having a high emotion-focused coping style have a tendency to react to situations of stress along with elevated anxiety, thus increasing the arousal level related to compromised sleep. Another 2022 study highlighted that suffering from stress too much is able to activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and sympatho adrenomedullary systems, affecting your sleep quality. When you experience acute stress, you can read a book, practice deep breathing or listen to soft music before the bedtime to help relax your mind and aid you in having a sound sleep. Nevertheless, if you suffer from chronic stress and you frequently keep awake for several nights, you should immediately discuss your problem with the doctor to get exactly diagnosed.
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Effects Of Stress On The Body
Stress exists in many forms. Any situation you are not in control of is stressful. The effects of stress are commonly known. Yet you may not be aware of the way it impacts you physically.
Stress takes its toll in countless ways. It is commonly found to be at the root of many emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems. And can cause you to fall into depression, experience anxiety, and simply feel overwhelmed with everyday things.
While stress is unavoidable, too much of it can actually have an impact on your physical health as well. The physical effects of stress on your body can cause you to feel even worse and perpetuate the cycle of emotional stress. The physical consequences of stress are one of the more serious effects of stress.
A Heightened Sense Of Smell And Ringing In Your Ears
Ever notice how a familiar smell can bring a flood of memories with it? Thats because the parts of the brain that deal with scent and emotion have a close relationship. For some people, emotional stress can bring with it a heightened sense of smell studies show that increased stress hormones in the body cause people to more accurately identify smells. One theory behind why: Lin says since stress puts the body in a hyper-aware state, the brain works harder to sniff out potential threats.
Some people also experience persistent ringing, buzzing, or chirping sounds in one or both ears when theyre stressed. Bergquist says this ringing, which is called tinnitus, may not always be related to whats going on the ears. The amygdala, which is part of the brain that reacts to stress, also helps to process sound which means stress and fear can cause ear ringing.
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Should I Get A Stress Test
A stress test doesnt measure the stress in your life, but it does measure the stress on your heart, or rather how hard your heart is working and what it looks like when youre walking very fast on a steep incline on a treadmill. People usually get a stress test when they have multiple risk factors for heart disease, or if theyve been having certain symptoms like chest pain or palpitations, says Haythe.
Strategies For Coping With The Physical Effects Of Stress
The key to coping with stress is making sure there are enough periods of relaxation to balance the effects of stress. When were faced with one stress period after another, with no time to relax in between, it can affect our physical and emotional well-being.
Try some of these stress reduction techniques:
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Getting Sick More Easily
If the body is busy dealing with the constant threat of stress, Lin says the immune system can easily get run down, which means someone might catch sickness more easily.
When youre stressed, your body is on hyper-alert all the time because its waiting for a treat, she says. So when you get exposed to a virus or another infection, youre not able to fight it as well because your resources have been stretched.
One scientific theory about why stress weakens the immune response has to do with lowered white blood cells the stress hormone, cortisol, reduces the number of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight sickness.
The Effect Of Stress On The Body
Stress can wreak havoc on your body if its left unchecked. Not only does occasional stress show up in your body, but chronic stress can also have long-term negative consequences for your physical health. When you are feeling stressed, you may experience:
- Increased heart rate
- Change in appetite
And these are just a few of the symptoms that you may experience. If you suffer from chronic stress, the symptoms above can start to turn into more serious health consequences.
Chronic stress can lead to health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, heart attack, and strokes, among others. These are clear indicators that allowing chronic stress to continue in your life can be detrimental to your physical health and well-being.
How Stress Affects Mental Health
Stress also impacts your mental health and wellness. It can lead to you experiencing many different negatives and difficult emotions such as sadness, anger, frustration, and fear.
Some of the mental health symptoms that you may notice in your life from stress include:
- Lack of concentration and focus
These are serious symptoms that should not be taken lightly. If you experience chronic stress, you may begin to think that these symptoms are just a normal part of life. But, theyre not. All of these symptoms can grow into more serious problems if you dont work on addressing them.
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Q: How Does Stress Affect The Brain
Dr. Sinha: Chronic stress can make your brain behave in an Alzheimers-like manner. Stress adversely affects a key structure in the brain, the hippocampus, leading to impaired memory and problems with orientation and sense of direction.
These brain changes may have evolved to protect against the memory of traumatic and stressful events, like being attacked by a predator but losing short-term memory hinders todays brain-intensive lifestyle. We all recognize the frustration of forgetting where we put our keys, names of people we just met or other recent events.
Nor does stress help you function any better on brain-intensive tasks. In one study, scientists studied brain blood flow while subjects performed tasks that required sorting large amounts of dataessentially stressful multitasking. They found that the prefrontal cortex, the executive part of the brain used for planning, execution, reasoning and organization, was initially very active but then tired and shut down. That left the reptilian brain, the impulsive and emotional brain, in charge. Pay attention to how your emotions transform in the midst of multitasking, typically moving from initial clarity to confusion and frustration.
Video: How Stress Affects Your Brain
When we encounter a stressor, our brain and body respond by triggering a series of chemical reactions that prepare us to engage with or run away from the stressor. Two hormones that we release are adrenaline, which prepares muscles for exertion, and cortisol, which regulates bodily functions. If a stressor is exceptionally frightening, it might cause us to freeze and become incapacitated . The stress response triggered by these two hormones causes our:
- Blood pressure to rise
- Digestive system to slow down
- Blood to clot more quickly
Thousands of years ago, people who stumbled upon a hungry saber-toothed tiger or other predator would be more likely to survive the encounter if they were able to spring up and sprint away swiftly. An increase in blood pressure and heart rate and a slowdown of digestive processes meant more energy could be directed toward escaping. If they couldnt run quickly enough, their odds of surviving a wound from the hungry tiger were better if their blood clotted rapidly.
Today, this physical response to stress, if unrelieved, can be damaging to our health. Unrelieved stress is a known risk factor in many of the leading causes of premature death among adults, including conditions and illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and a poorly functioning immune system . Chronic stress is also a potential risk factor for depression, addiction, and suicide .
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Increase This Loud Habit
A study showed that as laughter went up, cortisol plummetted. Especially during work day, errands or daily madness, we know it can feel hard to laugh. Here are a few ways to increase this out-loud emotion:
- A comedic TV show *besides the dramas you love*
- Reading books that make you giggle
- Spend time with friends doing something silly
Mental Stress: What You Need To Know
In earlier centuries, stress was merely a reaction to life-threatening circumstances such as the attack of a saber-toothed tiger. Nowadays, you feel stress much more often and in situations that are nowhere near life-threatening.
The bodys response, however, is the same, you are put into fight-or-flight mode. It is useful in some situations. But if it happens every day, it can have a strong negative impact on your psyche. Chronic stress is, for example, a major risk factor for developing depression.
In a stressful situation, our body releases the stress hormone cortisol. It keeps you awake and can lead to sleep disorders. In turn, sleep disorders also increase your risk of developing depression.
Since your body is in a supposed escape situation, it also signals to your psyche that you should feel fear. Over time, this can lead to a chronic anxiety disorder or panic attacks.
Your libido also reacts negatively to stress. You may ultimately lose your lust.
Constant stress can also lead to chronic fatigue. It, in turn, leads to a lack of drive. You are also much more irritable.
This tiredness also affects your mental performance. People who are stressed have difficulty concentrating and often have memory problems.
Chronic fatigue syndrome or burnout is also a severe psychological consequence of constant stress.
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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.
Stress And The Function Of The Cardiovascular System
The existence of a positive association between stress and cardiovascular disease has been verified . Stress, whether acute or chronic, has a deleterious effect on the function of the cardiovascular system . The effects of stress on the cardiovascular system are not only stimulatory, but also inhibitory in nature . It can be postulated that stress causes autonomic nervous system activation and indirectly affects the function of the cardiovascular system . If these effects occur upon activation of the sympathetic nervous system, then it mainly results in an increase in heart rate, strength of contraction, vasodilation in the arteries of skeletal muscles, a narrowing of the veins, contraction of the arteries in the spleen and kidneys, and decreased sodium excretion by the kidneys . Sometimes, stress activates the parasympathetic nervous system . Specifically, if it leads to stimulation of the limbic system, it results in a decrease, or even a total stopping of the heart-beat, decreased contractility, reduction in the guidance of impulses by the heart stimulus-transmission network, peripheral vasodilatation, and a decline in blood pressure . Finally, stress can modulate vascular endothelial cell function and increase the risk of thrombosis and ischemia, as well as increase platelet aggregation .
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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 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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Central Nervous And Endocrine Systems
Your central nervous system is in charge of your fight or flight response. In your brain, the hypothalamus gets the ball rolling, telling your adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rev up your heartbeat and send blood rushing to the areas that need it most in an emergency, such as your muscles, heart, and other important organs.
When the perceived fear is gone, the hypothalamus should tell all systems to go back to normal. If the CNS fails to return to normal, or if the stressor doesnt go away, the response will continue.
Chronic stress is also a factor in behaviors such as overeating or not eating enough, alcohol or drug abuse, and social withdrawal.
Stress Can Provide Motivation
When we experience stress, sometimes we feel like we may not be able to accomplish what we set our minds to. But your brain is wired to react in a way that makes you strive for success. Stress can move you in the right direction and provide you with a deep sense of accomplishment when you overcome your fears or worries.
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It Raises Your Body Temperature
For some peopleyoung women especiallyhighly stressful situations can actually cause a spike in body temperature known as a psychogenic fever. And oddly enough, research published in the journal Temperature found that these fevers are remedied not with run-of-the-mill anti-fever medications, but with anti-anxiety medications and therapy. And for things you should avoid doing if you already have a high temperature, check out These Are the Worst Things You Can Do if You Have a Fever.
Where Might I Spot The Physical Signs Of Stress
The immune systemStress initially inhibits the immune system the chemicals our body releases to deal with immediate threat arent designed to keep us healthy long-term. People affected by chronic stress can find their immune system affected, making them susceptible to colds, flu and other infections.
The liverOur liver gives us a boost of glucose when were stressed, enabling us to physically respond to stressors. Long-term, this constant release increases our risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and can make it hard for us to maintain a healthy weight.
DigestionOur guts are surprisingly sensitive organs, and respond to hormone imbalances, stress, and many physical and mental health conditions with pain, bloating, and sometimes changes in bowel habit.
Nervous systemChronic stress affects dopamine levels, which is one of the reasons long-term stress makes us more vulnerable to mental illness. It can particularly make us seek short-term rewards like sugary, fatty or salty foods, affecting our weight and overall health.
SkinEven our skin responds to stress, with inflammation and worsening of skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis.
HeadachesThe release of stress hormones can cause changes in the blood vessels around the brain, causing tension headaches and migraines.
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