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How does stress impact physical and mental health?

How does stress impact physical and mental health?

Stress is everywhere, and it affects every one of us. Some stress is ok and can be beneficial. However, too much stress can weigh you down and make you ill, both mentally and physically.

A way to control stress is to understand the symptoms, but unfortunately recognising stress symptoms may be harder than you think.

What is stress?

Stress is your body’s way of reacting to a harmful situation. When we feel stressed, a chemical reaction occurs in your body; your body releases hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. This is called the “fight-or-flight,” response. As you become stressed, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. This is your body preparing itself to react to something bigger.

But remember, not all stress is bad. In small doses, stress can help you complete tasks and prevent you from getting hurt. 

What are the symptoms of stress?

Everyone perceives stress differently. What causes stress in one person may not be an issue for someone else, therefore meaning that stress is hard to diagnose.

People often associate stress with mental health, however it can affect your physical health too.

Emotional symptoms of stress:

  • Feeling easily agitated, frustrated, and moody.
  • The sense of being overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control. 
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind. 
  • Low self-esteem; feeling lonely, worthless, and depressed. Avoiding others.

Behavioural symptoms of stress:

  • Changes in appetite — either not eating or eating too much. 
  • Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities. 
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. 
  • Exhibiting more nervous behaviours, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing.

Physical symptoms of stress:

  • Low energy.
  • Headaches.
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea.
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles.
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat.
  • Insomnia.
  • Frequent colds and infections.
  • Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet.
  • Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing.
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth

Cognitive symptoms of stress:

  • Constant worrying.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • Forgetfulness and disorganisation.
  • Inability to focus.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side

What Are the Consequences of Long-Term Stress?

As mentioned previously, a little stress is not something to be concerned about. However ongoing, prolonged stress can cause or create many serious health problems:

  • Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
  • Obesity and other eating disorders
  • Menstrual problems
  • Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon

How to manage stress.

If you take small, practical steps to manage your stress, you will be able to reduce the risk of negative health effects. Here are some tips to help you cope:

  • Observe and recognise your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increase alcohol or substance intake and being easily agitated or having low energy.
  • Try a relaxing activity such as yoga or meditation to help with muscle relaxation.
  • Get regular exercise. It has been proven that just 30 minutes per day of exercise can help to boost your mood and improve your health by releasing endorphins into your bloodstream.
  • Keep connected to your friends and family to help with emotional support.

Help Is Available for Stress

If you or someone you care about is feeling overwhelmed by stressed, talk to someone. Whether it be a friend, a trained doctor or psychologist, it is important that you don’t keep it to yourself. Your doctor will be able to evaluate your symptoms and rule out other conditions. If stress is to blame, you can be recommended to see a therapist or counsellor to help you manage your stress.

Stress is a part of life. What matters most is how we manage it.  

Flagship Partners offer Mental Health in the workplace to ensure that staff know how to cope with workplace-related stress. Our priority is to ensure business owners receive maximum performance, productivity and profit from their company, and that’s why no ask is too big. We’re here to support businesses in any way we can.