Effects of stress on the body and mind
Stress that doesn’t go away keeps the body on high alert, which is bad for both physical and mental health. Stress and its bad effects can be lessened by intentionally relaxing
How stress affects the body
- In times of stress, the body goes into alert mode.
- In some situations, this reaction can help you focus and pay attention.
- But long-term stress is bad for your health. For example, it can cause headaches, muscle tension, and sleep problems.
- Stress can lead to physical and mental illnesses in the long run.
- The best way to avoid the bad effects of stress is to find and deal with or avoid the things that make you feel stressed.
- Exercise, yoga, meditation, or other ways to calm down can help in the short term.
What is stress?
Stress is a normal response of the body when you are facing a lot of challenges. The body goes on high alert and gets ready to be able to handle more. In and of itself, a good response is: “A short-term response to stress is good for you.” Stress can help you learn new skills and deal with problems in the short term. When all that mattered was staying alive, tension also made sense. Our ancestors were ready to run or fight because their bodies were always on high alert.
But if the alert is always on, it can be bad for your health. You are always worried, tense, and busy, and you may not be able to do everything important. This condition is hard on both the mind and the body. Stress that lasts for a long time can hurt the quality of life and make people more likely to get sick over time.
How often does stress happen, and what makes it happen?
Stress happens to a lot of people. In a 2016 study of all of Germany, 6 out of 10 people said they sometimes felt stressed. About a quarter of the people who answered the survey even felt stressed a lot. The study found that 82 percent of people between the ages of 30 and 39 regularly felt stressed. This was the age range where stress was most common. But people between the ages of 18 and 29 and 40 and 59 also had quite high stress levels. After age 60, the stress level went down a lot.
According to the study, the job or training was the main cause of stress, followed by making a lot of demands on yourself. Stress was also often caused by having too many appointments and responsibilities, driving in traffic, and being available all the time. But stress usually doesn’t have just one cause; it’s usually caused by more than one thing.
Most stress comes from work (46%), having high expectations of oneself (43%), having plans and obligations outside of work (33%), being in traffic (30%), and having to be available all the time (28%).
Work is the main cause of stress for 46% of people, followed by high expectations of yourself for 43%, appointments and obligations in your free time for 33%, being in traffic for 30%, and being constantly available for 28% of people.
Men and women are different, which can make people feel stressed. For men, it’s often their job: not getting enough praise, feeling rushed, being competitive, wanting to move up in their careers, or having little room to act and make decisions are all common causes. Most of the time, women are stressed because they have to deal with both work and family, as well as arguments and disagreements.
Can people have different reactions to stress?
Stress is different for everyone. So, everyone has a different idea of what stress feels like. Stress is always there for some people, and they find it unpleasant or even dangerous. Most of the time, other people don’t feel stressed, and for them, stress is not exciting or challenging.
How you look at a stress trigger determines whether or not it causes a stress response in the body. For example, it may be easy to get by if all you have to do after work is shop, cook, and clean the bathroom. For the other person, this can make them feel overwhelmed and cause a stress response.
Stress comes in many forms. This is important to know. because stress isn’t just caused by having too many things to do every day. It can also be caused by problems with other people, like not being challenged enough, not being appreciated enough, fighting with coworkers, or having to take care of a sick family member.
The ways people try to deal with stress can also be different from person to person. They are often different, especially between men and women. Men often try to deal with stress by doing risky things like drinking too much, acting aggressively, or denying it. Women are more likely to get help from their friends, feel anxious, or pull away from others.
What happens to the body when it’s under stress?
Stress is the body’s alarm response to a real or possible threat. The reaction starts in the brain, which tells the body that it needs a lot of energy to deal with the situation. This sets off a number of processes and releases chemicals called “stress hormones,” such as norepinephrine, adrenaline, and cortisol, that send messages to the body.
The body responds to stress triggers with three types of physical adaptations:
- Alarm response phase
- Resistance phase
- Exhaustion phase
In the first phase, the body makes more hormones that deal with stress. These lead to:
- The heartbeat is getting faster.
- breathing becomes more rapid
- blood pressure rises.
- The sugar level in the blood goes up.
- The bronchi are getting bigger.
- Nutrients are sent to the muscles.
Also, when there is an acute stress reaction, the immune system is turned on for a short time. Stress also slows down body processes that aren’t necessary for keeping the body alert. This is true for things like how the stomach, intestines, and bladder work.
In the resistance phase, the body tries to adjust to a long-term, or chronic, stress situation and deal with the pressure. At this point, stress symptoms like high blood pressure or tension often start to show.
In the third phase, which is called “exhaustion,” the strain is clear. In the long run, performance goes down. The immune system also starts to work less well, which makes you more vulnerable to pathogens and more likely to get sick quickly from things like a cold. At this stage, there is also a higher chance of developing anxiety or depression.
How does stress show up in your body and mind?
Many people have experienced symptoms like faster breathing, sweaty hands, and the need to go to the bathroom more often than usual before an exam, an important meeting, or even a first date. These responses to short-term stress are not bad in and of themselves. Because they also help you get ready for a task and focus on it.
Constantly having a lot on your plate and a mountain of tasks can lead to physical or mental stress reactions that last for a long time. If you feel overworked or stressed out for a long time, your body will respond by staying tense and trying to keep your performance at a high level. Then there are usually physical signs of stress, like:
- Digestive problems
- Grind your teeth.
- Skin problems
- Shortness of breath
Stress can also have an effect on the mind and mental balance. The constant stress makes it impossible to really unwind. You don’t sleep well, can’t pay attention, get irritable and nervous, and feel sad and down. There can be a vicious circle where you tend to make more mistakes, which hurts your self-confidence and makes you focus on the bad things. In many ways, it seems like problems are getting worse.
Can you get sick from stress?
In addition to the usual signs of stress, long-term stress can lead to diseases that keep coming back. These include problems with the digestive system like irritable bowel or stomach symptoms, inflammation of the stomach lining, a stomach ulcer, or heart disease.
Stress can also make the mind sick. Over time, feeling tired and “burned out” can turn into a syndrome called burnout. Chronic stress also makes it more likely that you will have a mental illness like depression or anxiety. There is also a chance that people who are very stressed will pull away and turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the chaos and thought carousel, at least for a little while.
Whether or not stress makes you sick depends on how strong you are and what you do for a living. The stronger someone’s inner strength, or resilience, is, the less stressful they find things like deadline pressure and conflicts.
In general, though, high and constant stress is bad for both physical and mental health. A study from 2016 found that almost one-third of people who said their health was less than good or bad often felt stressed. On the other hand, people who thought their health was good felt less stressed.
Important to know: If you feel stressed for a long time and have any of the above symptoms or ones like them, you should pay attention and get help. Psychotherapists and family doctors can help people find ways to deal with constant stress.
What can you do to deal with stress on your own?
A lot of the time, work and other things that cause stress and overwork take up too much of daily life. As a result, there is a good chance that people will only think about it and act on it.
How to find the causes: Seeing problems, doing something about them, and dealing with them is the first important step away from constant stress.
What aids people in dealing with stress:
- Finding the triggers Recognizing, dealing with, and working through problems is an important first step toward getting rid of constant stress.
- Many people find it helpful to learn how to better manage their time, which can be done, for example, in special courses.
- Develop ways to deal with stress and to relax more. Meditation and progressive muscle relaxation are two things that can help some people.
- Take a deep breath. When you’re stressed, your breathing becomes shallow and you don’t get enough oxygen.People who regularly take deep breaths make it easier to calm down.
- How to eat well: A balanced diet helps your immune system and makes you stronger, more productive, and happier.
- Take it easy today. Having time in the morning for a healthy breakfast and a calm start can make a big difference.
As a way to find balance, everyday movement and sports help people relax, deal with stress, and do better at their jobs.
- Make sure you take time to relax every day. Find your own place of peace, like when you’re reading on the couch.
- Get into a hobby: When you do something just because you enjoy it, it has meaning and makes you feel good.
- Doing nothing at all is also a great way to relax.
Important to know: If you work in a sedentary job and then relax by sitting, you may have trouble getting the 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week that is recommended for adults. So, people who don’t move much are more likely to get healthier from active relaxation with exercise.