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We’ve all felt stress at some point in our lives, and it’s not a nice feeling. Stress can cause all sorts of impacts to our mental and physical well-being, and severe cases can leave us unwell. Our blog is here to dive into some of the most severe impacts of stress on the body, and the kinds of things you can do to mitigate stress. To learn more about how stress affects us physically, keep on reading! 

What Is Stress? 

Stress is a state of mental tension, or worry that is being caused by a certain situation. Many of us have felt stressed in the past, whether it’s for an exam, a job interview, or something else. People can feel stressed for a range of reasons, and it’s a natural response to challenging situations or overwhelming circumstances. Sometimes, simply having too much on our plate can overwhelm us, leading to stress. 

The way we respond to stress can make a huge difference to our overall well-being and mental health. Everyone has different coping mechanisms and reactions to stress, and it’s important to find the one that works the best for you. 

Mental Symptoms 

Stress can impact our mental health quite drastically, and it can start to make us feel: 

  • Easily agitated, have more mood swings
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Unable to relax or quieten your mind
  • Bad about ourselves, low self-esteem and feelings of loneliness 
  • Depressed and anxious 
  • Like we want to isolate, avoid others 

Long Term Impacts Of Stress On The Body

While stress is commonly thought of as a mental strain, there is plenty of evidence showing us that stress can have an intense effect on our physical bodies. Stress can impact our physical bodies without us even realising, so finding ways to manage stress and keep ourselves healthy is extremely important. Read below to hear some of the most serious physical symptoms of stress. 

Muscles & Bones

Stress can impact your bones and muscles, without you even realising. When we’re stressed, our muscles tend to tense up, almost as a reflex. Chronic stress, and stress over time will continue to make your muscles tense up. This can lead to strains, and even muscle injury. Some of the most effective ways to get your muscles to relax are through yoga, exercise and meditation. 

You might be suffering with chronic headaches and migraines as a result of the stress, and this is often caused by the chronic muscle tension in the shoulders, neck and head. 

Stress can also cause an increase in the inflammation in your body, which is what leads to joint pain over time. If you have existing joint pain, stress could definitely make this worse. Your joints may feel sore or swollen as a result. 

Respiratory System 

Intense stress can actually impact the respiratory system. Over time, if you are dealing with chronic stress, this can impact your breathing and lungs. Stress can make it more difficult to breathe, or make you breathe harder. For people with asthma or any kind of respiratory condition, this can cause problems and make it even harder. 

Feeling overwhelmed and extremely stressed can cause you to take shorter, sharper inhales rapidly. Shortness of breath is a common impact of stress, and experiencing this sensation can lead to hyperventilation and panic attacks. 

The impact that stress has on the cardiovascular system can be quite severe. Acute stress, which may be caused by meeting tight deadlines or getting into a car crash, will suddenly increase your heart rate, in combination with stress hormones that trigger fight or flight responses. Your body will return to its normal state after the acute stress has passed. 

Chronic stress, or stress over prolonged periods of time, can contribute to long term problems. The consistent and ongoing increased heart rate can lead to a range of complications. Heart disease is a common result of chronic stress, as a result of high cortisol levels. It can also raise blood pressure, increasing the chance of heart attacks and strokes. If you’re concerned about your heart health, you can seek a heart disease diagnosis from our private GPs.

Digestive Health 

It may sound crazy, but your gut health can be seriously impacted by stress. Stress can make your appetite increase, or decrease. Some people avoid eating, and some can overeat during stressful times. Not getting the right nutrition can cause bloating and nausea, which are other common side effects of stress. In worst case scenarios, people frequently vomit from stress. 

Stress can impact your digestion too, causing your bowel movements to change. You may find that you are suffering from constipation or diarrhoea more often as a result of the stress. 

The Reproductive System

For both men and women, the reproductive system can also be impacted by stress. Not only can it decrease your sex drive, but for men, it can negatively impact sperm count. For couples trying to conceive, this can pose a problem. Stress can also impact our immune systems, making us more vulnerable to infections in the reproductive system. 

For women who are still menstruating, stress can impact the menstrual cycle, causing periods to stop, become irregular or heavier. Much like men, stress can also have an affect on a woman’s sex drive and her ability to get pregnant. Menopause is also an already challenging time in a woman’s life, and feeling stressed can only amplify some of the effects of menopause, like dizziness, anxiety, depression, mood swings and more. 

Other Common Physical Symptoms 

There are a range of other common physical symptoms that come with stress that can impact individuals in a range of ways. These symptoms might include: 

  • Low energy 
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches/nausea
  • Aches and pains in muscles
  • Chest pains 
  • Insomnia 
  • Anxiety, increased nervousness
  • Teeth grinding, clenched jaw 
  • Excessive sweating

Managing Stress

There are lots of ways to manage stress, and these will look different for everyone. It may take some time to find the best option for managing your stress, but these are some of our best coping mechanisms. 

  • Routine – Maintaining a routine is important for managing stress, as it helps us to feel more in control, and reduce overwhelming feelings. 
  • Getting Enough Sleep – Getting enough sleep is extremely important when you are stressed, allowing both your body and your mind to rest properly. Insomnia is a common effect of stress, which can only worsen the issue. Good sleeping habits can help you feel refreshed and even reverse the effects of stress. 
  • Socialising – Seeing friends and family, or going into work can be a good way to de-stress and take your mind off things. While you may feel like staying in, socialising can be a healthy way to decompress. 
  • Diet & Exercise – Getting the right nutrition and taking care of your physical body can help with stress massively. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, as well as getting some form of regular exercise can be very useful in taking your mind off things. Exercising doesn’t need to be intense, and can even be walking! But, getting out and about is a healthy way to mitigate stress. 

Getting Help With Stress

It can be tricky to determine when you should see a GP for stress, and it can be completely dependent on the individual. If you find yourself suffering with symptoms of stress for prolonged periods, or find that your body is starting to show symptoms of stress, it might be worth visiting your GP. 

Seeking Medical Advice: Cardiac Assessments & More At Duality Health 

If you’re looking for a professional private GP or health screening services to help you identify and manage your stress, look no further. Here at Duality Health, we specialise in a wide range of health screening services and cardiac assessments. 

Stress isn’t something to ignore. If you’re worried about stress, or the long term effects on your physical or mental health, book an appointment with one of our private GPs today. We offer a range of services to get you back to feeling your best. 

To book an appointment, learn more about our membership or our services, feel free to check out our website or contact our team here at Duality Health today.