The Effects of Stress on Your Body
Updated: Sep 1, 2019
Stress is an inevitable part of everyday life. Work deadlines, family commitments, and financial obligations can quickly lead to overwhelm and anxiety, even when you’re consistently working toward achieving balance in the different areas of life.
When stress takes hold, subtle to severe changes in your body are imminent, including physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Let’s take a closer look at the ways stress affects our well-being.
You may think that dull ache in your back or a sporadic headache is due to an underlying mystery illness, but your discomfort may be correlated to how much stress you are experiencing. The physical symptoms of stress can include:
Pain or tension in the muscles
Heaviness in the chest
Decreased sex drive
Although the physical symptoms of stress can easily be blamed on a poor dinner choice, skipping your morning cup of coffee, or incorrect form at the gym, stress may have more to do with your physical discomfort than any other external factor.
In addition to uncomfortable physical responses to stress, our bodies tend to react on an emotional level as well. Overwhelming feelings of anxiety or restlessness, a lack of motivation on the job or at home, or being unable to focus on your growing to-do list are all mental responses to stress. In some cases, stress can also lead to ongoing irritability, depression, or anger if it is not managed with care.
For some of us, outside stressors cause shifts to our behaviors as well. Often, stress leads to a withdrawal from social interactions with friends and family, or a tendency to overdo it on meals or alcohol consumption. Some may also find it hard to stick with a workout routine or steer clear of bad habits like smoking. While physical and emotional symptoms can be a point of contention, behavioral changes due to stress tend to be the most difficult to overcome.
Taking Action Against Stress
Giving the impact stress can have on our lives, it is common sense that reducing external stress triggers is a necessary step in living a healthy life; however, changing careers or reducing the number or frequency of commitments to ourselves and others may not be on the docket. Instead of trying to change your entire lifestyle, focus on the small things first.
Dedicating a small portion of your day toward physical activity is a great first step. Taking a walk or jog, joining a workout class, or even doing that overdue yard work can help raise your heart rate and the level of endorphins running through your system – both which assist in reducing the symptoms caused by stress. Similarly, making relaxation a priority with a massage or yoga class can be beneficial in reducing tension and the slew of symptoms related to being stressed. Finally, it is important to maintain a sense of humor when dealing with the common stresses that plague our day-to-day life. Work on taking things a little less seriously while incorporating healthy habits to combat frustrations and annoyances throughout the day, and your body – and mind – will thank you.