Mazlan has a passion for health and fitness. He enjoys yoga, cycling, home workouts, and healthy food.
Stress and its Effects on the Body
In this article on stress and its effects on the body, we will cover:
- How our body reacts to stress.
- Definition of what is stress.
- What is emotional stress?
- 6 areas where stress will affect the body - face, neck, back, etc.
- Finally, 8 ways to treat stress without medication.
- If you are in a hurry, 2 quick ways to relieve stress.
Body Reaction to Stress
When someone consistently irritates and bugs you with numerous requests that are, in reality, of little consequence, you will most probably burst out with an exasperated, "He's a pain in the neck!" or "He gets on my nerves!"
Stress and Effects on the Body
You may not believe this, but there is a strong connection between your emotional and physical well-being and the use of your language to express your anxiety! This was reported in the joint study by the University of Manchester and University of Bath on mental health and physical health, and published on ScienceDirect.
What Happens to Your Body During Stress?
Each part of your body reacts to the tension and strain on your nervous system. An ache in each part of your body indicates the state of your mind. Your heartbeat also increases, muscles will tighten, breathing quickens, and blood pressure will rise. That's how emotions affect the body.
So, stress does have a strong effect on your body and emotional wellbeing. Thus, how can you deal with this stress?
What is Stress?
First, let us define stress and what causes stress.
As defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stress is a feeling of physical, emotional, mental, or physical tension and how the body responds to it.
Physical Effects of Stress
It occurs when there is an imbalance between the perceived demand and your perception to meet that demand. This causes chemical changes in the body that lead to increased heart rate, rise in blood pressure and sugar levels. The physical effects of stress can be seen in your anxiety, feelings of frustration, anger, or depression.
Long Term Effects of Stress on the Body
The long-term effects of stress on the body are sicknesses such as cancer, obesity, Alzheimer's disease, asthma, gastric, and hypertension. For the elderly, it often leads to depression.
Recognizing the symptom of stress is important but more crucial is pinpointing what triggers it.
In small doses, stress can be beneficial in your personal growth especially for athletics, but when excessive it can be dangerous.
Symptoms of Stress
You tend to overlook the common stress symptoms. Your body will react to the pressure on the mind and will show itself through minor ailments like headaches, stomach knots, body tension, backaches, heartburn, nausea, irritability, indecision, and disorganization.
Main Causes of Stress
The three main causes of stress today are work-related, money problems, and health problems.
Job stress or burn-out stress syndrome can be detected by loss of energy and interest, complaint of being easily tired, a growing inability to cope with ordinary problems, a decline in personal motivation, and progressive loss in the purpose of life. That is already nearing the danger zone. Be careful!
6 Areas Where Stress Affects the Body
You cannot deny that your body does talk. It shows itself in different parts of your body. Mother Nature is kind and will always give you an advance warning before any serious attack. This is confirmed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Locate Source of Pain
Where are these chronic aches and pains? What situations arouse them? Locate the source of these aches, perhaps we can get rid of them fast, without resorting to popping pills, snorting cocaine, or drowning in liquor.
1. Facial Tension
If you hide your feelings, like pretending to like something, it will cause tension in the facial muscles and jaw. Your forced smile is actually a grimace or a scowl. It can over a long period develop into severe pain. That is stress and its effects on the body.
2. Stress Neck Pain
A stiff neck shows that bodily feelings are all bunched-up and difficult to channel to other parts of the body. That's stress and its effects on your body, as reported in the MedicalNewsToday.
A thorough massage is a good remedy. Soothers include exercising and deep breathing. These act as distracting activities and will release some of the pent-up feelings and stress.
3. Chest Pain
When you are grieving or in sadness, that feeling is in your chest. When you go through this experience, some people may say you have a broken heart.
When you say this, you may concave your posture. This act can in fact nurse the wounded heart.
As reported in WebMD, a broken heart syndrome is a condition caused by an emotionally stressful event and not due to clogged arteries.
4. Stress and Stomach Pain
Illnesses are psychosomatic in the sense that the mind and body are always connected. Ulcers, gastritis, and colitis are some of the illnesses triggered by mental stress. When you have butterflies in your stomach, or that knot or pit, it all comes from fear and anxiety, and are abdominal tension stress symptoms. Feelings of distress have a close link with the digestive system.
Do you remember the time when you gorged yourself silly trying to console yourself because your loved one left you? Or when that gorgeous girl or boy stood you up and you lost your appetite? That is stress and its effects on your body.
5. Stress and Back Pain
When you are angry, that pain affects your upper back and shoulder. The universal complaint about back pain indicates that the back is one of the body’s major battlefields.
It is the area where feelings of responsibility and guilt will flow downwards and meet the upward pushy feelings of self-control and stability. That is where the trouble starts. For example, financial stress and back pain are somewhat interconnected. Likewise, emotional stress and back pain are similarly connected.
6. Stress and Leg Pain
Can anxiety cause leg pain and weakness in the muscles? Yes, it can.
A person who is in control of his or her feelings usually stands firm and stable. The way a person uses the legs for support can show how well grounded or stable they are. Nervous people tend to shift their stance often and suffer from cold and clammy hands and feet.
The tension and cramps in the legs indicate someone who will not let go of their feelings. These are signs of stress and its effects on the body.
8 Ways to Treat Stress Without Medication
1. Experience Your Feelings
Let's say that someone had passed away and you are grieving over this loss. To overcome this sadness, you should experience your feelings by letting go and actively grieve the departed one. Do not bottle up your feelings, it can become stressful with bad effects on the body.
If you have difficulty expressing emotions and lock your feelings away and refuse to vent them out, your guilt will fester. The stress's effects on the body will slowly affect your health.
So, practice the mental release of aggressive feelings or energy. Allow yourself to feel your emotions. If you need to cry, go ahead and cry. As reported in Harvard Health Publishing, crying can release stress and emotional pain. Shout? Yes, let the pain go and shout out loud. This is how you handle stress without medication. It is also good for your blood pressure.
2. Talk Out Bad Feelings
If you harbor bad feelings with anyone, it is good to deal with the situation openly. Show your willingness to solve the problem. Prevent needless discord at home or workplace. Based on a study by the University of Texas, if you don't acknowledge these bad feelings, the pent-up emotions or stress can become stronger with nasty effects on the body.
Nearly 75% of cardiac problems happen after a major family crisis. So, talking about feelings and emotions is important for your mental and physical health. It is a easy way to handle or treat stress without medication.
Quote on Stress
You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.
— Steve Maraboli, in Life, the Truth, and Being Free
3. Avoid Making too Many Changes at Once
Too much change too fast is bad. Stress can happen when there are changes in your current situation. Like when you lose your job. Or trying to cope with childbirth or having a new baby in the household when things are already complicated, like during the pandemic.
Change is stressful only if too many hits all at once with dire effects on the body.
If it is within your control, can you space out any changes in your life? Ask, are these changes beneficial?
Try to avoid having excess conflicts and too many life changes at once.
4. Take up Some Form of Exercise
Endorphins are your body’s own morphine-like substance that helps you relax. Regular exercise will build up your endorphin production and also helps the body produce more endorphins during a stressful period. So work out your frustrations.
Simple exercises like deep breathing and stretching can help loosen tense muscles. This is a cheap way to handle stress without medication.
Or you can try gentle yoga or Transcendental Meditation which helps displace the stress and stiff muscles and their effects on your body.
5. Turn to Friends for Comfort and Advice
A person who has a well-nourished social life with an appreciation of food and the good things in life is more resistant to illness. A person with inadequate social ties is like a person with nutritional deficiencies.
Do not let stress and its effects hurt your body.
Turn to your friends for comfort and advice, it will at least let off some of your anger and stress levels.
6. Decide to Live Life to the Fullest
Whatever situation you are in, you must develop a strong reason and will for living.
To avoid stress-related diseases you must develop a fighter’s instinct to stay healthy and rid of its effects on your mind and body.
If you cannot handle it on your own, get help. You can do a search online for centers that offer free and confidential counseling.
7. Harmonize and Adjust Your Thoughts and Feelings
Distortion of any grievances will bring about stress and anger, which ultimately lead to awful effects on your body. Harmony in your emotions will finally reflect in your general well-being.
Understand your feelings and reason out why you feel that way. If necessary, write it down on a piece of paper. Then you can pinpoint the source of your illness. Cultivate the habit of positive thoughts. Learn the love secret of Understand and Care.
8. Change Your Attitude and Approach Towards Stressful Situations
Do not be caught unaware. Learn to say NO without feeling guilty or defensive. Set realistic limits. Face the reality that you cannot do all. Otherwise, stressful situations can have bad consequences on your mind and body.
Learn to take things easy. If anything goes wrong, it will. So keep asking yourself. ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen?’ The answer is Death, right? Well… it will surely catch up with you one day anyway. Let nature charts its course. Perhaps you can live longer if you do not overdo yourselves.
2 Quick Ways to Relieve Stress
If you are in a hurry, try the following quick and simple stress relievers to handle it without medication:
- Make Face: Tightly squeeze every part of your facial muscle for 20 seconds or more, then release. Repeat several times to benefit from this simple stress buster exercise. The alternate contraction and relaxation of the facial muscle will ease the tension
- Breathe In: Lick your lip to wet it then inhale and blow out slowly through your mouth. Repeat several times. This sensation of a cool air puff helps you relax and unwind.
Now that you know more on stress and its effects on the body, you will probably say, "That's a load off my back!"
Practice what you have learned, and you will be on your way to good health.
You can also listen to your favorite music to relax and relieve that stress level.
Resources and References
- Mayo Clinic Stress Management
- WebMD Health and Balance
- The American Institute of Stress
- NewsMedical - Stress causes whole-body deterioration
- Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2012 Mazlan A
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on October 03, 2016:
Hi, Deborah Demander. Thanks for the compliment. Yes, stress is the number one killer and we must recognize the signals our body is telling us before it is too late.
Deborah Demander from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on October 03, 2016:
Great article, with lots of helpful information. Stress is the cause of most of our chronic illnesses, but we don't look for it until it's too late.
Thanks for writing.
Eric Cramer from Chicagoland on July 30, 2012:
Great hub with great advice. I learned a lot.
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on July 09, 2012:
@Mellonyy Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Thanks also for the share.
Mellonyy on July 09, 2012:
How to reduce stress is one of the most important things we have to resolve nowadays. Great expose and writing skills. Shared.
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on July 09, 2012:
@CassyLu1981 I am glad you find the tips useful. Thanks for the vote and the share.
CassyLu1981 from Spring Lake, NC on July 09, 2012:
I suffer from a "more then normal" amount of stress. I've learned how to handle it for the most part. As long as I have a positive attitude I can normally get through it fine. But when it hits me and I'm not expecting it, it hits me hard! Next time I need it I will be using some of your managing techniques for sure! Thanks for the great writing! Voted up and shared!!!
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on July 09, 2012:
@Riverfish24 and @jpcmc Thanks so much to both of you, for stopping by and commenting and sharing.
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on July 08, 2012:
Physical impact of stress is one area of great concern. the emotional and social impact are likewise important. Decreasing stress in any way possible can help a person gain better health and better relationships.
Riverfish24 from United States on July 08, 2012:
Fantastic hub! very well done.
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on July 08, 2012:
@krsharp05, You are right, the stomach issues and migraine are stress related and can be a pain! Thanks for visiting, commenting and sharing.
Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 05, 2012:
greatstuff, this is wonderful! I agree with you that often times stress is a physical feeling. For me, stress causes a great deal of stomach issues and migraines. It took a long time to understand that it was stress causing those issues. You offer excellent ideas for dealing with stress and the videos are sweet. Thanks for sharing. -K
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on July 04, 2012:
Thanks to all of you for stopping by and commenting!
@billybuc , @Om @gsidley @meloncauli, I am pleased that you found this info helpful. And to @dinkan53 & @teaches12345 I'm glad you also like the video
Dianna Mendez on July 03, 2012:
Stress affects people more than they know. It does manifest itself in different and interesting parts of the body, like the legs. Great suggestions for dealing with stress. Thanks for posting Taylor's song, it's one of my favorites and I played it through.
meloncauli from UK on July 03, 2012:
Enjoyed reading your hub. Any physical illness always feels much worse when stressed too. Pain is more painful when stressed out!
Dr. Gary L. Sidley from Lancashire, England on July 03, 2012:
A well-written hub full of sensible advice. Rated useful.
Om Paramapoonya on July 03, 2012:
Great hub. I know many people (including myself actually!) who tend to overeat when they are stressed out. And yeah, I agree we should take the bull by the horns and try to resolve whatever causes our stress, rather than using food as an emotional crutch.
dinkan53 from India on July 03, 2012:
Stress is a contributing factor to literally almost every illness. I think the number one cause of stress is the thinking about the future. I like this article and the suggestions to manage stress. Enjoyed the videos too. Rated up and useful.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 03, 2012:
Great hub; very informative and needs to be read by many. Stress is the silent killer for sure.