How Stress Can Affect Your Overall Health

how stress affects your body

Different things cause different people stress. While it is not the same for everyone, stress can impact more than just your thinking – it can put a toll on your overall health. In April we discussed how you can cope with and overcome stress as part of recognizing Stress Awareness Month.

The bodies immediate reaction to stress

When our bodies identify a stressful situation, the initial reaction is in the form of a fight or flight response. It’s human nature to have your hands start to sweat or your heart rate increase when faced with a difficult situation.

While this can temporarily elevate your blood pressure and heart rate, this reaction is brief and fades quickly in most individuals. However, when you are unable to resolve the stressful situation quickly, you find yourself trapped in this state of reaction.

Common physical symptoms caused by stress

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or muscle pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep complications causing drowsiness

Source: Mayo Clinic

What can long-term stress do?

Short-term stress has actually been connected to improved memory and an increased degree of alertness (at least in animal studies).

On the contrary, long-term stress can prove dangerous. Having yourself exposed to continued long-term stress can make you a common candidate for serious health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses like depression or anxiety.

Through dieting and physical activity, we all work to lessen our risk of developing these illnesses, but stress can compromise our healthy living and still put us at risk.

How to mitigate your stress

The CDC provides some basic ideas to help you cope with stress…

  • Take care of yourself – eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, give yourself a break if you feel stressed.
  • Discuss your problems with a parent, friend or another trusted source.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • Recognize when you need more help – know when to talk to a psychologist, social worker or counselor if things continue.

A big point for many of us to ponder: think about what you can and can not control. Oftentimes these things we have no control over are what stresses us most. When you do not have control, let go – find something relaxing to do to take your mind off the stress. You can only control what you can control.