Managing Stress: How Stress Affects Overall Health
Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but it affects each of us differently. Although there is positive stress, known as eustress, most stress that people experience is negative. Negative stress can happen when there are continuous challenges to resolve, without any relaxation periods in between. Negative stress, or distress, can have detrimental effects on the body and mind if not dealt with properly. Read along further to recognize the impacts that stress can cause on overall health.
Stress on the Body
Stress is an overwhelming feeling, but what you may not realize is that stress can also cause many physical symptoms to arise in the body. The systems of the body all work together, so when stress is introduced, the systems cannot function properly. Stress can cause headaches, heart problems, chronic fatigue, and stomach issues, just to name a few.
The musculoskeletal system is impacted by stress because muscles will tense up, which is the way the body protects itself from injury and pain. Tension-type and migraine headaches are stress symptoms from tense shoulders, head, and neck. Another symptom related to stress would be pain in the lower back and upper extremities. These are common symptoms that many people face, which you may not have realized are directly related to stress on the body.
The cardiovascular system is an important element of the body since it contains the heart and blood vessels, which provide nourishment and oxygen to the organs of the body. When you experience chronic stress or high stress over a long period of time, you increase your chances of developing heart issues. Stress causes your heart rate to increase and blood pressure to elevate, which could lead to hypertension, stroke, or heart attack.
The endocrine system comes into play by signaling the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis when a person perceives a situation to be challenging or threatening. This then produces an increased production of steroid hormones, including cortisol, which is considered the “stress hormone”. These hormones aid in reducing inflammation in the immune system, which is a positive occurrence, until chronic stress disrupts the communication. When there is impaired communication between the immune system and HPA axis due to excess stress, it may cause chronic fatigue, metabolic disorders, depression, and immune disorders.
Stress on the Mind
Mental stress is usually what we think of first when we think of stress. It’s important to try to manage your stress to prevent symptoms on the mind, such as anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. With all of those symptoms working in conjunction, your mental health can greatly decline. While anxiety and depression are both mostly mental, panic attacks are about even between physical and mental stress. To ensure that you don’t have to experience these downsides of stress often, managing your stress in healthy ways will benefit you in more ways than you might think.
The respiratory system causes both symptoms to the body and mind in regards to high stress levels. When someone is experiencing high levels of stress, it may increase their breathing and cause shortness of breath, which would impact the body. In someone prone to panic attacks, an attack may occur as anxiety increases from high stress levels, which would impact the mind. Symptoms of panic attacks become physical with shortness of breath and rapid breathing, as the airway between the nose and lungs constricts.
Stress is a very common condition that everyone experiences, especially during uncertain times or major life events. Stress affects overall health by imposing on the systems of the body, causing them to overcompensate, which then causes physical symptoms. The major symptoms talked about are headaches, heart problems, stomach issues, depression, and anxiety.
There are many ways to alleviate stress, which is important so you can avoid experiencing these health concerns and symptoms. If you are experiencing extreme stress that is impacting your quality of life, talk with your doctor before it starts to affect your overall health.