The Physical Symptoms of Stress
Most of us are familiar with the fight-or-flight response. It’s that moment when stress kicks in, you can feel your body tense and your stomach flutter. In a crisis, this response can help you deal with a stressful situation effectively. However, if you are experiencing stress too often, you may have what is known as ‘chronic stress’. Beyond being emotionally unpleasant, chronic stress can have severe physical effects on your body and your overall health.
When stress related hormones – like cortisol and adrenaline – stay at a high level in the body for too long they can weaken your bones and immune system, disrupt your sleep, and cause muscle loss. They can also be dangerous for your heart as they can raise blood pressure and inflame the blood vessels. They also instruct your liver to release glucose. Excess amounts of this sugar can contribute to diabetes.
Stomach pain is a common symptom of chronic stress. Your digestion system may be paused or delayed by stress hormones during the fight or flight response. You can experience nausea and stomach aches as a result. The continual disruption of your digestive system can result in diarrhea or constipation, while affecting your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Stress can cause us to develop unhealthy habits like eating too much, eating unhealthy foods, smoking and drinking alcohol. All of these things can contribute to heartburn, weight gain, liver disease and lung disease.
When you are stressed, the muscles in your head, neck and shoulders tighten up. This can lead to tension headaches and even migraines. Stress is also a major contributor to sleep disruption and insomnia. Unfortunately, these symptoms in themselves can cause more stress, creating a negative cycle.
What can you do?
There are dozens of ways to reduce stress. The key is finding out what works for you. Try a few different things – like meditation or exercise – until you find what is most effective for you. Don’t hesitate to see a medical professional to help you find ways to reduce stress.
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