The Effects of Stress on Your Body

The Effects of Stress on the BodyHave you ever found your body tensing up during a really scary movie? That’s one of your body’s natural reaction to stress. Everyone experiences stress at some point in time because of a serious life event, responsibilities at work, or even sitting in traffic.

While stress is completely normal, high levels of stress over an extended period of time can result in some serious health issues including depression, insomnia, and Anxiety.

Stress does not just affect your mind, it takes a toll on your body as well. Below are 10 ways stress affects your body….

1. Headaches

Headaches caused by stress are called tension headaches. This common adult headache consists of dull pain, tightness, or pressure around the forehead or back of the head and neck. There’s plenty of pills out there to help alleviate the symptoms of a stress headache. Reducing stress to help prevent a headache in the first place may be a better solution.

2. Muscle Tension or Pain

When you’re stressed, your muscles tense up to protect themselves from injury. If you’re constantly under stress, your muscles may not get the chance to release this tension. Tight muscles cause headaches, back and shoulder pain, and body aches. Over time, this can set off an unhealthy cycle as you stop exercising and turn to pain medication for relief.

3. Chest Pain

Chest pain is a common symptom of anxiety and stress but should go away once the stress is managed. Many times, breathing exercises can help manage check pain due to stress and anxiety. Please note: if you think your chest pain may instead be a warning sign of heart attack, see a doctor right away.

4. Fatigue

Fatigue can come from both physical and emotional exhaustion. When fatigue comes from stress, it’s a mental exhaustion, caused by worrying or the difficulty in coping with a situation in your life. It is a result of thoughts and feelings rather than physical exertion. Many people have lived with fatigue caused by stress for so long that it’s become their “norm”.

5. Sleep Problems

Stress can cause us to lose sleep, lying awake at night thinking about all the stress of the day. The next morning, the lack of sleep then causes more stress. This vicious cycle can lead to other issues including insomnia. In most cases though, if stress is reduced then sleep will come naturally.

6. Sadness or Depression

Stress has direct effects on mood. One of the big reasons for this is when people become stressed they stop doing all of the things that keep them happy and stress-free. For example, if someone is stressed at work, they may skip the gym and their morning meditation, cancel plans with friends and family, and eat more meals on the go. This can lead to mood changes and depression.  Keeping up with healthy habits and ways of reducing stress can help keep sadness at bay.

7. Change in Sex Drive

It’s not unusual to lose one’s desire when under constant stress. Short-term stress may increase the production of testosterone in men. If stress continues, a man’s testosterone levels can begin to drop. This can interfere with sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. For women, stress can affect the menstrual cycle. It can lead to irregular, heavier, or more painful periods. Chronic stress can also magnify the physical symptoms of menopause.

8. Lowered Immune System

Stress stimulates the immune system, which can be a plus for immediate situations. This stimulation can help you avoid infections and heal wounds. But over time, stress hormones will weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s response to foreign invaders. People under chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like the flu and the common cold, as well as other infections. Stress can also increase the time it takes you to recover from an illness or injury.

9. Stomach & Digestive Issues

The rush of hormones, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate can upset your digestive system. You’re more likely to have heartburn or acid reflux thanks to an increase in stomach acid. contrary to popular belief, stress doesn’t actually cause ulcers. It can, however, increase your risk for them and cause existing ulcers to act up. Stress can also affect the way food moves through your body, leading to diarrhea or constipation.

10. Adrenal Fatigue

When the body is stressed, the body goes into “fight or flight” mode. To help with this, the body then tells the adrenal glands to release hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. This is natural for the body to do this. If stress continues over time, the adrenal glands can become fatigued and not function properly. This can lead to lowered energy and a weakened immune system.

Stress can cause both mental and physical ailments. The best method for dealing with stress is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Of course, we can’t escape all stress so finding healthy ways to cope with stress can help too. Take some time to see how you can alleviate stress in your life as well as slow down, unwind, and relax!


Physical Therapy Irvine: The Effects of Stress on Your Body