The effect of stress on your body explained
05 February 2021 - 5 min read
Stress can affect us in many ways, from mind to body. But understanding these effects and how to manage our stress can sometimes be a little difficult. Most of us can tell when we’re feeling stressed, but what is really happening to our body? There are many different types of stress and these can affect us in a multitude of different ways. We can experience physical stress due to injury, pollution, fatigue and labour; psychological stress, linked to our emotions; we can feel psychosocial stress, due to relationships, lack of social support or isolation; and we can also feel psycho-spiritual stress, which can be linked to lack of fulfilment or a questioning of values. So, what are the signs of stress? Read what RESCUE Remedy® has to say!
Effects of stress on the body
The effect of stress on the body is often one of the first things that crops up. Stress hormones are the same ones that cause our body’s fight or flight response. You might notice your breath quickening, heart racing and tense muscles. For example, if you’re working on a deadline and are seeing time slipping away, this could cause nervous responses such as shaking legs, pen biting and even heart palpitations or a tight chest. Tension headaches are also a common response to stress, characterised by a dull, aching head pain and a sensation of tightness or pressure across your forehead, the sides or the back of your head. Remember to listen to your body’s cues and take a moment to find some calm in your day.
After a busy and demanding day, it can be all too hard to “switch off” when you get home. You can often find yourself still running through all the things that need to be done during the evening at home. Technology has a large part to play in this, from permanently checking-in to emails; taking work calls out of hours, and updating your social media status, chances are you’re experiencing ‘smartphone overload’. Stress and sleeplessness are a growing epidemic, driven by 24/7 connected lives and balancing life’s increasing pressures, and a global survey carried out by RESCUE Remedy® has shown it affected 73% of the interviewed people at least once a week1 Repetitive thoughts, restlessness and vivid or disturbing dreams are all signs of stress. Stress and sleeplessness are also a vicious cycle – the more stressed you feel, the less you sleep and the less you sleep, the more stressed you might feel the next day.
While work is often the number one cause of stress, being stressed can also have a negative impact on your productivity and the quality of your work. You might experience a lack of motivation and find yourself struggling to concentrate for very long, constantly starting and stopping tasks. Seeing a never-ending to do list can be extremely frustrating, but instead of hopping around it, going from task to task without finishing everything, try to prioritise and tackle one thing at a time, but take breaks if you need to. You might need a few minutes away from your desk, a tea break, or a brisk walk, but you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more focused once you start ticking things off that list.
Stress can easily cause us to fall out of our healthy habits, and if we’ve been working on them for a while, it can be extremely frustrating. High levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, can cause emotional eating by triggering cravings for salty and sweet food – junk food – which often give a quick boost of energy. For some people though, stress can also shut down appetite, triggering a corticotropin-releasing hormone which can suppress appetite. Either way – chronic stress can easily derail your healthy eating habits, but it’s important to try to eat a balanced diet, as this could actually help decrease your stress levels in the long run.
Higher stress levels can also lead to a lack of exercise. Not only can stress cause physical symptoms outlined above, which can deter us from exercising, it can also make us feel overwhelmed, sluggish and unmotivated. Whether you feel like you have no time to exercise or can’t bring yourself to do it, try getting some movement in your body every hour. That could be standing up for two minutes or it could be going for a walk. Allowing your blood to flow and your body to move can help you feel more grounded and in control of your stress levels.
1 2017 Global 5 country Market sizing Quantitative study Australia, France, Germany, UK, USA. n= 5045 interviews by an independent market research agency, Harris interactive