Stress is a normal reaction that happens to everyone. In fact, the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. When you experience changes or challenges(stressors) your body produces physical, mental and emotional responses. (Cleveland Clinic)
Stress is a normal part of life. Many events that happen to you and around you and many things you do yourself put stress on your body. You cam experience good or bad forms of stress from your environment, your body and especially your thoughts.
“We possess within us a force of incalculable power, which if we direct it in a conscious and wise manner, gives us the mastery of ourselves and allows us not only to escape from physical and mental ills, but also to live in relative happiness.”
Even though I am not medically qualified on this topic I can certainly tell you from my own personal experience that stress seriously affects my body. Bowel problems, restricting and stress causing. Tummy problems, palpitations and most problematical is a VERY sore mouth. My husband says that I find everything stressful. I think he is right.
Please read these 2 articles below from Healthline. Stress and anxiety often overlap, but anxiety has its own classification and is sometimes treated with medication. I take no responsibility for the articles below. They are being shared for you.
The Effects of Stress on Your Body
You’re sitting in traffic, late for an important meeting, watching the minutes tick away. Your hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, decides to send out the order: Send in the stress hormones! These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your body’s “fight or flight” response. Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles ready for action. This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly. But when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could put your health at serious risk.
Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Everyone expresses stress from time to time. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious life events such as a new diagnosis, war, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress. For immediate, short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.
Yet if your stress response doesn’t stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being. Symptoms of chronic stress include:
Your central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of your “fight or flight” response. In your brain, the hypothalamus gets the ball rolling, telling your adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rev up your heartbeat and send blood rushing to the areas that need it most in an emergency, such as your muscles, heart, and other important organs.
When the perceived fear is gone, the hypothalamus should tell all systems to go back to normal. If the CNS fails to return to normal, or if the stressor doesn’t go away, the response will continue.
Chronic stress is also a factor in behaviors such as overeating or not eating enough, alcohol or drug abuse, and social withdrawal.
Stress hormones affect your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. During the stress response, you breathe faster in an effort to quickly distribute oxygen-rich blood to your body. If you already have a breathing problem like asthma or emphysema, stress can make it even harder to breathe.
Under stress, your heart also pumps faster. Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to constrict and divert more oxygen to your muscles so you’ll have more strength to take action. But this also raises your blood pressure.
As a result, frequent or chronic stress will make your heart work too hard for too long. When your blood pressure rises, so do your risks for having a stroke or heart attack.https://www.myfinance.com/r/ssr/9f800e6c-85f8-4789-98c4-763eab240dae?utm_campaign=hl-mental-health-quiz-anxiety-calm&utm_medium=embed&selector=%23m1a57b4c3-af94-48dd-9069-81dbda9454fe+%3E+div+%3E+div&csid=36f62bef-adaf-4afb-bd99-3f566e63f535&caid=9b5a4133-195f-47d8-b5e4-ad39f2ac4255&ciid=27fb5040-ad5b-4ee0-b56f-2c572e0eeb53&tenant=wk_1Tqf7EYzOKyxm4Gvq042rU0Uky0&srckey=src_1Tqf7BF96WTbG5QbUndHWIgKoFo&cxsid=1df06ab5-6014-4108-b663-89a2569901fe&imre=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuaGVhbHRobGluZS5jb20vaGVhbHRoL3N0cmVzcy9lZmZlY3RzLW9uLWJvZHk%3D&_mfuuid_=82bce7ac-3861-48bc-ad8f-2c9042575bcd&width=584&subId=mentalhealth_quiz_hl_anxietystressphobias_mid_embedded_34529
Under stress, your liver produces extra blood sugar (glucose) to give you a boost of energy. If you’re under chronic stress, your body may not be able to keep up with this extra glucose surge. Chronic stress may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The rush of hormones, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate can also upset your digestive system. You’re more likely to have heartburn or acid reflux thanks to an increase in stomach acid. Stress doesn’t cause ulcers (a bacterium called H. pylori often does), but it can increase your risk for them and cause existing ulcers to act up.
Your muscles tense up to protect themselves from injury when you’re stressed. They tend to release again once you relax, but if you’re constantly under stress, your muscles may not get the chance to relax. Tight muscles cause headaches, back and shoulder pain, and body aches. Over time, this can set off an unhealthy cycle as you stop exercising and turn to pain medication for relief.
Stress is exhausting for both the body and mind. It’s not unusual to lose your desire when you’re under constant stress. While short-term stress may cause men to produce more of the male hormone testosterone, this effect doesn’t last.
If stress continues for a long time, a man’s testosterone levels can begin to drop. This can interfere with sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Chronic stress may also increase risk of infection for male reproductive organs like the prostate and testes.
For women, stress can affect the menstrual cycle. It can lead to irregular, heavier, or more painful periods. Chronic stress can also magnify the physical symptoms of menopause.
Stress stimulates the immune system, which can be a plus for immediate situations. This stimulation can help you avoid infections and heal wounds. But over time, stress hormones will weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s response to foreign invaders. People under chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like the flu and the common cold, as well as other infections. Stress can also increase the time it takes you to recover from an illness or injury.
Through evidence-based reviews and provider comparisons, we provide tips, tools, and resources to help you care for your physical and emotional well-being.LEARN MORE
Last medically reviewed on June 5, 2017
The Signs and Symptoms of Too Much Stress
Stress can be defined as the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure. It can have mental and physical consequences (1).
At one point or another, most people deal with feelings of stress. In fact, a study from 2015 found that 59% of adults reported experiencing high levels of perceived stress (2Trusted Source).
Stress, which is a feeling of being overwhelmed by mental or emotional pressure, is a very common issue.
Decreased energy and insomnia
Prolonged stress can cause chronic fatigue and disruptions in sleep, which may result in decreased energy levels.
For example, a recent study of more than 7,000 working adults found that fatigue was “significantly associated” with work-related stress (3Trusted Source).
Stress may also disrupt sleep and cause insomnia, which can lead to low energy.
A 2018 review published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that “stress-related worry and rumination” can lead to disrupted sleep and eventually the risk of developing insomnia (4Trusted Source).
Another study of 2,316 participants showed that exposure to stress was associated with an increased risk of insomnia (5Trusted Source).
Both of these studies focus in on sleep reactivity, or the extent to which stress affects the ability to fall sleep or remain asleep.
While it’s evident that stress can disrupt sleep, not everyone who experiences stress or who is going through a stressful time will deal with insomnia or sleep disturbances.
Changes in libido
Many people experience changes in their sex drives during stressful periods.
One small study evaluated the stress levels of 30 women and then measured their sexual arousal while watching an erotic film. Those with high levels of chronic stress experienced less sexual arousal compared with those with lower stress levels (6Trusted Source).
A much more recent study published in 2021 on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s reproductive health found that 45% of the over 1,000 women surveyed reported a reduced libido due to stress (7Trusted Source).
In addition to stress, there are many other potential causes of changes in libido, including:
- hormonal changes
- psychological issues
Some studies suggest that chronic stress may be associated with depression and depressive episodes.
One study of 816 women with major depression found that the onset of depression was significantly associated with both acute and chronic stress (8Trusted Source).
Another study found that high levels of stress were associated with the onset of major depression in adolescents (9).
In addition, a 2018 review highlighted the connection between depression and the experience of chronic or inescapable stress (10).
Besides stress, some potential contributors to depression include:
- family history
- environmental factors
- even certain medications and illnesses
Stress can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including decreased energy, insomnia, libido changes, and depression.
Some studies have found that higher levels of stress are associated with increased bouts of acne (11Trusted Source).
Several studies have also confirmed that acne may be associated with higher levels of stress.
One small study measured acne severity in 22 university students before and during an exam. During examination periods in which stress increased, acne became more severe (13Trusted Source).
Another study of 94 teenagers found that higher stress levels were associated with worse acne, particularly in boys (14Trusted Source).
These studies show an association, but they don’t account for other factors that may be involved. Further research is needed to look at the connection between acne and stress.
In addition to stress, other potential causes of acne include:
- hormonal shifts
- excess oil production
- clogged pores
Many studies have found that stress can contribute to headaches, a condition characterized by pain in the head, face, or neck region.
A 2015 study showed that increased stress intensity was associated with an increase in the number of headache days experienced per month (15).
Another study surveyed 172 military service members at a headache clinic, finding that 67% reported their headaches were triggered by stress, making it the second most common headache trigger (16Trusted Source).
A smaller 2020 study also found that stress can be a driving factor in tension headaches .
Other common headache triggers can include lack of sleep, diet, alcohol consumption, hormonal changes, and more.
Aches and pains are a common complaint that can result from increased levels of stress. Some studies have found that chronic pain may be associated with higher levels of stress as well as increased levels of cortisol, which is the body’s main stress hormone.
Another study showed that people with chronic pain had higher levels of cortisol in their hair, which the study described as a novel indicator of prolonged stress (19Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that these studies show an association but don’t look at other factors that may be involved.
Besides stress, there are many other factors that can contribute to chronic pain, such as:
- chronic poor posture
- nerve damage
If you feel like you’re constantly battling a case of the sniffles or other sickness, stress may be to blame.
Stress may take a toll on your immune system. Studies show that higher stress levels are associated with increased susceptibility to infection.
In one study, 116 older adults were given the flu vaccine. Those with chronic stress were found to have a weakened immune response to the vaccine, indicating that stress may be associated with decreased immunity (20).
Similarly, one analysis looking at 27 studies showed that stress was linked to increased susceptibility of developing an upper respiratory infection (21).
A chapter in the 2019 book “The Impact of Everyday Stress on the Immune System and Health” stated that psychological stress can affect a range of bodily functions, such as inflammatory responses, wound healing, and the body’s ability to fight off infection and disease (22).
However, stress is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to immune health. A weakened immune system can also be the result of:
- a low-nutrient diet
- substance use
- physical inactivity
- disorders of the immune system, such as AIDS
Some studies have found that stress may be associated with digestive issues, like constipation, heartburn, diarrhea, as well as digestive disorders.
Stress may especially affect those with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
In one study, increased symptoms of digestive distress were associated with higher daily stress levels in 181 women with IBS ().
Additionally, one analysis of 18 studies that investigated the role of stress on inflammatory bowel disease noted that 72% of studies found an association between stress and negative clinical and symptom outcomes (25).
A study from 2017 also highlights the direct connection between stress and symptoms of IBS, saying stress plays “a major role” in the manifestation and worsening of digestive symptoms (26).
Keep in mind that many other factors can cause digestive issues, such as diet, bacteria, infections, certain medications, and more.
Appetite changes and weight gain
Changes in appetite are common during times of stress.
When you feel stressed out, you may find yourself with no appetite at all or overeating without noticing.
One small 2006 study of 272 female college students found that 81 percent reported that they experienced changes in appetite when they were stressed out, with 62 percent stating they had an increase in appetite (27).
Changes in appetite may also cause fluctuations in weight during stressful periods. For example, a study involving 1,355 people in the United States found that stress was associated with weight gain in adults already living with extra weight (28Trusted Source).
A third study from 2017 found that individuals with higher cortisol and insulin levels and higher levels of chronic stress were more likely to gain weight in the future (29Trusted Source). However, the study was limited in the scope of research in that participants were predominantly white females.
While these studies show an association between stress and changes in appetite or weight, more studies are needed to understand other possible factors are involved and how stress impacts different people.
Several studies have shown that high stress levels can cause a fast heartbeat or heart rate. Stressful events or
tasks may also increase heart rate (30Trusted Source).
In a similar study from 2001, exposing 87 students to a stressful task was found to increase heart rate and blood pressure. Interestingly enough, playing relaxing music during the task actually helped prevent these changes (31).
According to the American Heart Association, undergoing a stressful event can cause your body to release adrenaline, which is a hormone that temporarily causes your heart to beat faster and your blood pressure to rise. This is one reason why living with increased stress may create a rapid heartbeat (32Trusted Source).
Exposure to stress may also cause excess sweating, research suggests.
One small study looked at 20 people with palmar hyperhidrosis, a condition characterized by excess sweating in the hands. The study assessed their rate of sweating throughout the day using a scale of 0–10.
Stress significantly increased the rate of sweating by two to five points in those with palmar hyperhidrosis, as well as in the control group (33Trusted Source).
Another study found that 40 teenagers exposed to stress experienced high amounts of sweating and odor (34Trusted Source).
A 2013 review on “psychological sweating” notes such sweating occurs in response to stress and anxiety, stating this type of sweat typically appears on the face, palms, soles of the feet, and underarms (35).
The physical symptoms of chronic stress are varied and vast, and can include acne, headaches, rapid heartbeat, sweating, changes in appetite, digestive issues, chronic pain, and more frequent infections or bouts of sickness.
As nice as it would be to have a single pill that could completely eliminate all stress, because there are so many different factors that cause stress, there is no one-size-fits-all way to treat it.
Talking with your doctor or a therapist is a great first step, as they can help you figure out what exactly is causing your stress and suggest ways to manage and treat it. They can also help you figure out if your symptoms are indeed caused by stress or another preexisting condition.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are a few lifestyle choices that can also help in managing stress. Some of these include (36Trusted Source):
- taking breaks from the news
- taking breaks from your devices (computer, phone, TV)
- getting adequate exercise and sleep
- taking breaks to allow your body to rest
- increasing nutrient-rich foods in your diet
- doing deep breathing exercises
- avoiding excessive substance use
- talking with friends, a trusted advisor, or a therapist
- building community though faith-based organizations or activities you enjoy
If you feel overwhelmed from stress and aren’t sure what to do, or are having feelings of self-harm, it’s important to talk with someone you trust or a therapist.
You can also call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255, 24 hours a day.
Help is always available.
Because stress can be caused by a variety of issues and symptoms can vary from person to person, treating it depends on personal factors.
However, certain lifestyle changes, like exercising, taking breaks from the 24-hour news cycle, and talking with friends or trusted advisors may provide some relief.
Chronic stress can affect your entire body, and if it’s not properly managed, can cause serious issues, such as (37):
- back pain
- muscle tension
- worsening asthma symptoms
- worsening obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms
- increased risk of hypertension, stroke, or heart attack
- mental health conditions
Chronic stress can affect your entire body, and if left untreated, may drastically reduce your quality of life through chronic pain, increased risk of certain diseases, and changes in mental health.
Occasional stressful events are a part of everyone’s life.
Working through and processing these events — with a support system, if needed — is key to keeping chronic stress at bay.
Chronic stress can take a toll on your mental and physical wellness, creating a wide range of symptoms such as low energy levels, headaches, changes in mood, and decreased sex drive.
Fortunately, there are many ways to help relieve stress, such as talking with friends or a therapist, exercising, and meditating.
Just one thing
Last medically reviewed on December 14, 2021FEEDBACK:
Stress and Anxiety
What are stress and anxiety?
Most people experience stress and anxiety from time to time. Stress is any demand placed on your brain or physical body. People can report feeling stressed when multiple competing demands are placed on them. The feeling of being stressed can be triggered by an event that makes you feel frustrated or nervous. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, or unease. It can be a reaction to stress, or it can occur in people who are unable to identify significant stressors in their life.
Stress and anxiety are not always bad. In the short term, they can help you overcome a challenge or dangerous situation. Examples of everyday stress and anxiety include worrying about finding a job, feeling nervous before a big test, or being embarrassed in certain social situations. If we did not experience some anxiety we might not be motivated to do things that we need to do (for instance, studying for that big test!).
However, if stress and anxiety begin interfering with your daily life, it may indicate a more serious issue. If you are avoiding situations due to irrational fears, constantly worrying, or experiencing severe anxiety about a traumatic event weeks after it happened, it may be time to seek help.
Stress and anxiety can produce both physical and psychological symptoms. People experience stress and anxiety differently. Common physical symptoms include:
- muscle tension
- rapid breathing
- fast heartbeat
- frequent urination
- change in appetite
- trouble sleeping
Stress and anxiety can cause mental or emotional symptoms in addition to physical ones. These can include:
- feelings of impending doom
- panic or nervousness, especially in social settings
- difficulty concentrating
- irrational anger
People who have stress and anxiety over long periods of time may experience negative related health outcomes. They are more likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and may even develop depression and panic disorder.
For most people, stress and anxiety come and go. They usually occur after particular life events, but then go away.
Common stressors include:
- starting a new school or job
- having an illness or injury
- having a friend or family member who is ill or injured
- death of a family member or friend
- getting married
- having a baby
Drugs and medications
Drugs that contain stimulants may make the symptoms of stress and anxiety worse. Regular use of caffeine, illicit drugs such as cocaine, and even alcohol can also make symptoms worse.
Prescription medications that can make symptoms worse include:
- thyroid medications
- asthma inhalers
- diet pills
Stress- and anxiety-related disorders
Stress and anxiety that occur frequently or seem out of proportion to the stressor may be signs of an anxiety disorder. An estimated 40 million Americans live with some type of anxiety disorder.
People with these disorders may feel anxious and stressed on a daily basis and for prolonged periods of time. These disorders include the following:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable worrying. Sometimes people worry about bad things happening to them or their loved ones, and at other times they may not be able to identify any source of worry.
- Panic disorder is a condition that causes panic attacks, which are moments of extreme fear accompanied by a pounding heart, shortness of breath, and a fear of impending doom.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that causes flashbacks or anxiety as the result of a traumatic experience.
- Social phobia is a condition that causes intense feelings of anxiety in situations that involve interacting with others.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a condition that causes repetitive thoughts and the compulsion to complete certain ritual actions.
If you’re having thoughts about harming yourself or others, you should seek immediate medical help. Stress and anxiety are treatable conditions and there are many resources, strategies, and treatments that can help. If you’re unable to control your worries, and stress is impacting your daily life, talk to your primary care provider about ways to manage stress and anxiety.
It’s normal to experience stress and anxiety from time to time, and there are strategies you can use to make them more manageable. Pay attention to how your body and mind respond to stressful and anxiety-producing situations. Next time a stressful experience occurs, you’ll be able to anticipate your reaction and it may be less disruptive.
Managing everyday stress and anxiety
Certain lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety. These techniques can be used along with medical treatments for anxiety. Techniques to reduce stress and anxiety include:
- eating a balanced, healthy diet
- limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption
- getting enough sleep
- getting regular exercise
- scheduling time for hobbies
- keeping a diary of your feelings
- practicing deep breathing
- recognizing the factors that trigger your stress
- talking to a friend
Be mindful if you tend to use substances like alcohol or drugs as ways to cope with stress and anxiety. This can lead to serious substance abuse issues that can make stress and anxiety worse.
Seeking professional help for stress and anxiety
There are many ways to seek treatment for stress and anxiety. If you feel like you’re unable to cope with stress and anxiety, your primary care provider may suggest that you see a mental health provider. They may use psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, to help you work through your stress and anxiety. Your therapist may also teach you applied relaxation techniques to help you manage stress.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular and effective method used to manage anxiety. This type of therapy teaches you to recognize anxious thoughts and behaviors and change them into more positive ones.
Exposure therapy and systematic desensitization can be effective in treating phobias. They involve gradually exposing you to anxiety-provoking stimuli to help manage your feelings of fear.
Online therapy options
Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.
Your primary care provider may also recommend medication to help treat a diagnosed anxiety disorder. These may include selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as sertraline (Zoloft) or paroxetine (Paxil). Sometimes providers use anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines), such as diazepam (Valium) or lorazepam (Ativan), but these approaches are generally used on a short-term basis due to the risk of addiction.
Stress and anxiety can be unpleasant to deal with. They can also have negative effects on your physical health if untreated for long periods of time. While some amount of stress and anxiety in life is expected and shouldn’t be cause for concern, it’s important to recognize when the stress in your life is causing negative consequences. If you feel like your stress and anxiety are becoming unmanageable, seek professional help or ask others to help you find the support you need.