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Stress Signs and Symptoms: How Stress Affects Your Body

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Stress is often talked about casually amongst friends and colleagues. We might joke about needing a glass of wine after a stressful day, or if we forget something, we might put it down to being worn out from work.

The conversation often ends there, but in reality, stress isn’t something we should just accept as part of day-to-day life. Stress can seriously impact our health, going beyond emotional signs to visible, physical symptoms.

 Concerned that your stress is getting to be too much? Read on for a few signs and symptoms of stress that affect your body.

A compromised immune system

When you are stressed, your body releases stress hormones, one of which is cortisol. The release of this stimulates the production of corticotropin-release hormones (CRH), which in turn encourages the release of oil from the glands surrounding your hair follicles.

Cortisol can also impact our immune system.

The release of cortisol as a result of stress isn’t a bad thing in itself. In small doses, it actually boosts our immune system by acting as an anti-inflammatory.

But when such stress is drawn out, the excess cortisol levels result in chronic low-level inflammation, which can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Beyond that, it can also impact your body’s immune system. As your body gets used to the excess cortisol, your immune system becomes less effective,

High and prolonged stress also reduces the number of lymphocytes in the body, white blood cells that help combat viruses and infections. Without them, we are at increased risk of viruses. So, in essence, prolonged and chronic stress can leave us more susceptible to the common cold and the flu, among other viruses. It might even make you more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Uncomfortable or painful digestion

When we’re stressed in a fairly typical situation, such as before an exam or job interview, our liver produces extra energy in the form of glucose to keep us going.

While this works fine for these one-off situations, chronic and long-term stress means our body cannot maintain this level of extra glucose.

As a result, extreme long-term stress can increase the chances of us developing type 2 diabetes.

The increased hormones and rapid heart rate can also impact our digestive system. Our stomachs increase their production of stomach acid, which can cause acid reflux or heartburn. It can also indirectly increase the risk of developing stomach ulcers and exacerbate existing ones.

Increased pressure on our cardiovascular system

You might have heard of the “fight or flight” response to stress. Whenever our bodies feel under threat, they release several hormones, including adrenaline. This, in turn, causes our heart rate to increase, our blood pressure to rise, and our breathing to quicken.

In evolutionary terms, this response is designed to help keep us safe from threats — think wild animals or rival tribes back when we were living in caves.

Usually, our body returns to normal once the stressful situation has passed.

But when the stress is chronic and prolonged, it overworks our heart. Sustained and increased blood pressure and heart rate put immense pressure on our bodies, increasing our risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.

Over time and with repeated stressors, you might also find that your body’s fight or flight response becomes more easily triggered.

Other signs of stress

Acne can be a symptom of stress, with the location of your acne indicating what caused it. A body acne map reveals how specific body breakouts are caused by different things, with stress acne typically appearing on your forehead, brows, cheeks, nose, chin, and jaw.

Disrupted sleep is also a sign of stress. An inability to fall asleep due to racing thoughts or a rapid heartbeat is typical of this. But similarly, you might also find it difficult to fall back asleep if you wake up during the night.

You might also find you lack energy during prolonged periods of stress. The physical toll on your body can sap your vitality, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic. This inevitably creates a vicious cycle that further compounds the stress.

Appetite changes are also typical symptoms of stress on the body. These changes can vary from person to person. Where one individual suffering from stress might report a markedly reduced appetite, another might crave more food, often junk food such as potato chips or candy.

The symptoms above are just a few of the physical and visible signs of stress on the body. Stress is a complex issue, and over time, it can dramatically impact our quality of life.

But it’s never too late to start making positive changes to reduce stress and regulate your mood. Try these useful ways to manage your mental health and work to lead a happier, healthier life.



Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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