It is easy to see how physical stress and strain can damage your muscles, bones, and organs. However, mental stress can be physically taxing as well. When you are stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol can then trigger a chain reaction in your body that is damaging to your physical being. You may be the type of person who thrives on the adrenaline rush of a busy schedule and looming deadlines. Conversely, you may find it daunting to carry out daily tasks while you are experiencing mental stress. Either way, the effects of stress can show up in your body.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, stress hormones can affect your blood vessels in a manner that triggers a headache. Furthermore, stress can cause tension, which dilates your blood vessels, worsening the pounding sensations of a migraine. Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth in times of stress can also contribute to the formation of a tension headache. Often, you may be unable to remove yourself from a stressful life situation or workplace environment. If you experience stress-related headaches, you may benefit from counseling, learning stress management techniques, or consulting your physician regarding the use of medications.
Back pain can be another byproduct of emotional or mental stress. According to UT Southwestern Medical Center, emotional stress can cause breathing changes and muscle tension, which then contribute to pain in the middle of the back. Meanwhile, stress may lead to periods of inactivity. Spending a lot of time sitting affects your posture and causes strain on the muscles of the lower back. One tip for decreasing back pain due to stress includes maintaining a healthy diet. Consuming a proper diet can help you avoid the strain of weight gain. Additionally, it is critical to make time to stretch and exercise your muscles to prevent backaches.
8. Muscle Aches and Pains
Other muscles that can suffer from the strain of tension include the muscles of the jaw and shoulders. Relaxation techniques that may help relieve muscle tension include mindfully working your way from your head to your toes, alternately clenching and releasing groups of muscles. University of Michigan Medicine advises tensing a group of muscles as you breathe in for four to 10 seconds, then relaxing those muscles as you breathe out. Relax for 10 to 20 seconds before moving down to the next muscle group.
7. Stomach Upset
Children seem especially prone to tummy aches when they are feeling nervous or upset. Dr. Rebecca Cherry of Rady Children’s Hospital points out that the nerves of the human stomach and intestinal tract respond to stress hormones just as the nerves in the brain do. Stress can lead to stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhea. Children are not the only individuals susceptible to stress-related stomach aches. Many a stressed businessman has gobbled down antacids in an effort to relieve the churning discomfort of stress-induced stomach pain.
6. Weight Gain
As stress triggers the excess production of cortisol, this hormone can stimulate your appetite, causing you to overeat. In addition to a false sense of hunger, it can be tempting to “feed your stress” by overindulging in high-fat or sugary comfort foods. Unfortunately, the weight gain that accompanies overeating may trigger feelings of self-loathing, creating even more mental stress. Anxiety and tension can also cause weight gain if they prevent you from exercising and getting the proper amount of sleep. Turning to alcohol to numb feelings of stress can also contribute to weight gain.
5. Chest Pain
Stress and anxiety can cause chest pain due to muscle tension or by triggering panic attacks. In fact, symptoms of a panic attack can closely mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. Individuals suffering a panic attack for the first time often report feeling as though they are having a heart attack. Symptoms may include a feeling of pressure in the chest, a squeezing sensation in the chest, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath. Seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.
4. High Blood Pressure
Your level of stress may have a direct effect on your blood pressure. Perhaps you have heard of white coat phenomenon. This refers to a situation in which individuals with normal blood pressure have high blood pressure readings due to their stress and anxiety over being in a doctor’s office. The American Heart Association advises employing stress-reducing techniques to prevent stress from raising your blood pressure. Allowing time for relaxation, knowing when to say no to additional duties, and focusing on daily pleasures can help to decrease the effects of stress.
3. Decreased Bone Strength
When you consider stress and bone strength, your mind may first go to physical stress on fragile bones. However, some studies suggest there is a link between mental stress and bone strength. Endocrinology Advisor reports there may be a link between anxiety and bone density. Furthermore, mental conditions, such as depression, may increase the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
2. Sleep Disorders
While sleep is a useful tool for combating signs of stress and tension, your sleep can also fall victim to the ravages of stress. High levels of cortisol can interfere with your sleep-wake cycle and prevent you from falling asleep. An off-kilter sleep cycle can also prevent your body from obtaining the necessary quantity of deep, uninterrupted sleep each night. Prepare your body for a restful night of sleep by dimming the lights and engaging in quiet, restful activities before bedtime. Maintain a cozy, peaceful sleeping area by keeping work activities and noisy distractions out of the bedroom.
1. Protecting Your Body from Stress
In today’s fast-paced world, it can be challenging to protect your body from stress. To keep your defenses strong, be sure to provide your body with nourishing foods. Wholesome foods will provide the energy you need without packing on unnecessary pounds. Make time to exercise to keep fit and allow your muscles to stretch and strengthen. Take frequent breaks while working at your desk to rest your eyes, stretch your muscles, and sip water. Include time to relax with friends, unwind with a book, and enjoy your favorite hobbies. A happy, relaxed mind contributes to a healthy body.