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Stress - How it Affects Mind and Body

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

We all have stress in our lives and it can be beneficial to our health. Chronic stress, on the other hand, can cause a many symptoms and affect your overall well-being.

Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Everyone has stress. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious events such as a health diagnosis or the death of a loved one can trigger stress. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.

If your stress response doesn’t stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated for a long period of time, it can take a toll on your health. Symptoms of chronic stress include:

  • depression and anxiety

  • anger, irritability, restlessness

  • feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, or unfocused

  • trouble sleeping/ sleeping to much

  • racing thoughts or constant worry

Cardiovascular System

When your body experiences stress, your heart rate increases. Increased blood pressure and extra strain on the heart makes the body more prone to heart attack, heart disease, and stroke. The body also produces a stress hormone called cortisol which increases blood sugar levels.

Digestive System

Stress eating is where cortisol can make the body crave sugary or fatty foods to give your body the energy to fight the perceived threat. You may also lose your appetite as the demand on other body systems increases and attention turns away from the digestive system. For this same reason, the body may not absorb the food consumed as efficiently, leading to constipation or diarrhea. The body may also experience nausea and bloating when you’re stressed.

Immune System

When you’re stressed, the body produces a hormone that reduces the number of white blood cells. This challenges the effectiveness of the immune system, leaving the body more prone to illness.

Muscular System

As part of the “fight-or-flight” reaction, the muscles in the body tense up, ready to fight the perceived threat. The continued tension can lead to muscle pain and spasms, and muscles may be more prone to injury. Prolonged muscle tension can also trigger migraines and tension headaches.

Learning to De-stress

With all the effects of stress on the body, managing your stress levels is incredibly important. Along with tending to the emotional issues of stress, you also need to tend to the physical effects.

  • Eat healthy foods

  • Go for a walk

  • Get a massage or reflexology

  • Listen to music

  • Breathe deeply

  • Take a bath

  • Journal

Learning to de-stress can be fun. In fact, it needs to be enjoyable to you. As you're mind relaxes your body relaxes.

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