Stress affects you from head to toe
Updated: Apr 26, 2019
What Is Stress?
Many of us have a good idea of what stress feels like, but we may find it difficult to put into words. Thankfully, the National Institute of Mental Health provides us with some clarity. They define stress simply as the brain and body’s response to any given demand. This could be a good demand or a negative one, and it can motivate us to either perform or prepare. Often, our own negative feedback loops transform most sources of stress to negative ones.
How Does Stress Affect The Body?
Stress is a chain reaction of events that begins in our brains. When we anticipate a stressful event, the part of our brain that is involved in emotional processing sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. This triggers a “fight or flight” response in our body that causes a ripple effect through the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and other essential systems. Additionally, cortisol is released to help counteract the effects of stress on your body.
The fight or flight response triggered by stress causes our heart rate and our blood pressure to increase. In instances of momentary or short-term stress, this can be a lifesaver. However, when these responses are constant, they can have a negative effect on our cardiovascular system. Long-term stress places us at risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart attack, and how we respond to stress can even affect our cholesterol levels.
Rapid breathing is another automatic response to stress — this is our body’s way of preparing itself with all the oxygen it needs to face the stressor it senses. While this can be a helpful response in times of acute stress, it can result in hyperventilation and panic attacks. Stress can also make you breathe harder, and this can be dangerous for those who have asthma, emphysema, COPD, or other respiratory conditions.
For some individuals, many of the effects of stress make themselves known in the form of gastrointestinal symptoms. Eating more or less than you normally do can affect your esophageal health, causing heartburn or acid reflux. Stress can also cause nausea, vomiting, ulcers, and severe stomach pain. You may also experience indigestion, poor nutrient absorption, and changes in bowel movements due to chronic stress.
Your muscles may involuntarily tense up in response to the fight or flight signals they receive from your brain. This is a natural response as your body prepares to brace itself for the perceived source of stress. Under normal circumstances, these muscles will relax once the stress passes. However, in cases of chronic stress, muscle tension rarely subsides. This can lead to other conditions such as migraines, and it can make your muscles more susceptible to injury. Learning effective stress management techniques can help reduce muscle tension and decrease stress-related disorders.
Always keep in mind...
Step number one in dealing with a mental health issue is reaching out for professional help (Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Therapist, etc.).
The information provided on this website is for educational purposes only.
It is not for diagnosing, prognosticating, treatment or prescribing of mental health conditions.
For the treatment of any mental health condition or disease, or drug therapy, please consult your physician or other healthcare providers.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis please call 911 or visit your hospital immediately.
When you’re in a place in your life where you can make positive changes, the techniques Jeremy delivers on this website, in his presentations and in his books may help.