Physical Effects of Stress

Knowing the physical effects of stress is important for targetting stress-related illnesses. Knowing your physical symptoms of stress is also important for your stress relief.

Have you ever felt your mouth go dry before giving a speech or felt yourself sweating before meeting an important first date.

If so, then theses are some of the physical signs of stress.

When stressed there are a number of physiological changes that occur in your body to prepare you to fight or flee from the stressor.

Stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream which result in a number of stress symptoms.

Here we discuss some of the physical effects of stress and how stress affects health.

Physical effects of acute stress

stress response

You've probably read news stories of little old ladies lifting cars off trapped children...or other amazing feats of strength.

This can be put down to the stress response.

If you have ever been stressed in a job interview or before a speech, had a car accident or endured an earthquake, then it is likely you have experience acute stress.

When confronted with a stressful event the stress response is activated.

Stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream to prepare for flight or fight.

You may notice your heart pounding, muscle tenseness, and increased sweating as your body prepares to fight or flee from the stressful event.

If so, then you have experienced some of the physical effects of stress.

Some of the typical short-term physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Increased restlessness/butterflies in stomach.

    As your body releases stress hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine your body become ready to move.

  • Dry mouth and abdominal discomfort.

    Digestion shuts down to make blood available to the rest of the body. These physical effects of stress lead to digestion-related problems.

  • Increased blood pressure and pulse rate.

    Your heart works overtime to get the oxygen-rich blood to the body. Breathing rate also increases to increase oxygen supply.

  • Face goes pink.

    As more blood goes to the brain, this can cause your face and ears to change color.

  • Your feet and hands become cold.

    Capillaries in the extremities constrict and blood is moved to the larger muscle groups for the fight or flight response.

  • Increased perspiration.

    The body attempts to cool itself in response to the anticipated fight or flee from the causes of stress.

Physical effects of chronic stress

There is no problem with the short-term effects of stress.

They have actually served a very important function in the human race.

But as you know, too much of a good thing can lead to F’s on an exam and is not great for your tennis game.

Too much stress can lead to distress.

Indeed chronic stress can lead to a number of stress-related illnesses, exhaustion, and even death.

Chronic stress is pervasive and deceptive.

You may think that you are adjusting to increaing levels of stress but you may really just be living with an unhealthy amount of stress.

Whether it is job stress or overwork, persisent financial stress or some other stress causes, the body activates the body’s stress response.

The problem with today causes of stress is that whenever you may feel annoyed, pressured at work, frustrated with traffic, have lost your wallet or keys, the stress response is activated and the associated physical effects of stress ensue.

This unrelenting stress can lead to wear and tear on your body, and feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.

The general adaptation syndrome explains the short and long-term effects of stress and how stress affects health.

How does stress affect health?

The headache that you always get after stress, the asthma, the eczema or skin irritations, or the bad back and hair loss that you blame on old age.

These have all been attributed in some way to stress.

Stress has also been shown to impact on digestion and can aggravate irritable bowel syndrome and is associated with high blood pressure and other hypertension symptoms.

Prolonged stress has also been shown to impact on the body's immune system with your body becoming more susceptible to illnesses, such as the common cold.

Stress and the immune system are intimately related.

Managing stress can reduce nausea, provide migraine headache relief and alleviate stress headaches.

Other people find that stress results in a physical tightness in their chest and difficulty breathing.

Having an understanding of physical and emotional effects of stress helps to develop a rationale for your stress management. This maximizes your chances of mastery over your stress!

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