Effects of Stress on Health –
Our bodies reactions to changes can be physical, mental, and emotional. Stress is a normal part of life. We experience stress in our personal and professional lives. Stress can impact your body and your thoughts.
Stress is a normal part of life that can keep you alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces constant pressure without relief or time between challenges. When this occurs, a person becomes overworked and tension builds up.
When stress is constant, it can lead to a state of distress or a negative stress reaction. This can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, higher blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, and even chest pains.
Stress can lead to urges to increase use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs which can be problematic. Unfortunately, substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and do not allow the body to return to a relaxed state.
Important facts to remember
- Health and Safety Executive says around 9.9 million working days are lost to stress, depression, and anxiety.
- Occupations with some of the highest rates of work-related stress are education, health and social care providers, public administration and defense.
- Stress, anxiety, and depression can lead to visits to a medical professional.
- Stress can contribute to headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, arthritis and asthma.
The American Institute of Stress Research states,
“According to a survey of 800,000 workers in over 300 companies, the number of employees calling in sick because of stress tripled from 1996 to 2000. An estimated 1 million workers are absent every day due to stress. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work reported that over half of the 550 million working days lost annually in the U.S. from absenteeism are stress related and that one in five of all last minute no-shows are due to job stress.” (https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/)
Symptoms of Stress Checklist (Emotional and Physical)
- Easily agitated or frustrated with others
- Mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling like you are losing control
- Low self-esteem and feeling bad about yourself
- Avoiding others
- Low energy
- Upset Stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeats
- Tense muscles, including achiness and pain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Reduced interest in sexual desire/possible difficulty in ability
- Excess sweating (not caused by other medical reasons)
- Dry mouth
- Grinding teeth or clenched jaw
Everyone struggles with anxiety at one time or another. Our body has a natural response to stress. Anxiety becomes a disorder when these feelings of intense fear or worry are overwhelming and interfere with completing everyday tasks. It is important to consult with a professional mental health therapist if these symptoms persist. Typically if they have lasted at least 6 months, you will want to consult to understand the nature of which anxiety disorder you may be experiencing.
- Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Feeling tense or jumpy
- Anticipating the worst
- Constantly watching for signs of danger
- Rapid or pounding heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Tremors or twitches
- Fatigue or weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nausea or stomachache
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
Is it an Anxiety Attack?
An anxiety attack occurs when feelings of intense fear or terror come on suddenly. Panic attacks typically last from several minutes to about half an hour. Sometimes a particular place, people, or situations can trigger an anxiety attack in some people. It is not uncommon for visits to the dentist to bring on an emotional and physical reaction. Anxiety attacks can also happen without warning. Frequent or repeated anxiety attacks may be an indicator of a panic disorder. It is important to consult with a specialist if you have additional questions or concerns.
Anxiety attacks usually include at least four of the following symptoms:
- Heart palpitations (pounding or racing heartbeat)
- Trembling or shaking
- Fear of dying
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Throat feeling tight, can feel like choking
- Numbness or tingling, especially in the hands
- Feeling hot or feeling a cold chill
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Feeling like you’re “detached” from yourself
- Feeling like you’re losing control
Anxiety causes long term stress, and that stress can lead to many physical anxiety symptoms. In some cases it may be just some mild physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches. In other cases it can be severe enough to land people in the hospital.
Tools to Manage Stress and Anxiety
Breathing helps regulate or control your physical symptoms. People will often hold their breath when having an anxious or fear response to a situation without even realizing they are holding their breath. Practice deep breathing when you are calm so that when you need to coach yourself in breathing it is already a part of your muscle memory.
Try the following techniques:
Box-Breathing: Imagine you are drawing a square in the air. Inhale for 4 counts. Hold for 4 counts. Exhale for 4 counts. Hold for 4 counts. and Repeat. Work your way up to counting for 6 counts, holding for 6 counts, etc. As your system calms, you will find that your breathing becomes calmer and easier to count for longer period of times.
Deep-breathing: Put your hand on your stomach and breath deep for 4 counts. Watching your hand rise so that you know you are breathing in deep into your lungs and into your belly. Exhale even more slowly and more controlled for 5 counts. Inhale again making sure your hand is still rising for 4 counts. Exhale even slower and controlled for 5 counts. Continue to do this as needed.
- Look around and name 5 objects you can see.
- Listen for 4 sounds you can hear.
- Name 3 objects you can touch/feel. (e.g. the chair you are sitting in or the pen in your hand)
- Name 2 things you can taste (get a cup of tea or even water to guide you)
- Name 1 object you can smell.
Take a moment and see what you observe in the image below: