Navigating stressful situations is a fact of life for everyone. However, the more you know about what causes stress, how it affects your body and what it can do to you physically and emotionally long-term, the better equipped you’ll be to handle it.
In this post, we’ll discuss what happens when you get stressed, how to reduce stress and the common triggers to avoid allowing it to impact you. We’ll also note where to get medical assistance if your stress levels become too overwhelming.
Common Triggers of Stress
We all know the feeling of our chest tightening or our head beginning to pound when circumstances beyond our control bring stress into our everyday world. It may be something trivial like a traffic jam or something more serious like a job loss. Sometimes, it’s such a part of the fabric of our lives, we don’t even realize it’s getting to us. Here are some common triggers of stress that may impact your well-being:
- Financial worries
- Relationship issues with loved ones
- Challenges at work
- Illness in the family
- Natural disasters
- Survival of an accident
- Injury or ongoing physical issues
- Demands of childcare
- A crime that’s victimized you
- Alcohol or drug addiction
- Loneliness or isolation
- Military deployment or PTSD from service
- Negative interactions on social media
That list isn’t comprehensive, but any or all of the above can cause significant issues to both your mental and physical state.
How Your Body Responds to Stress
When you experience stress, your body releases hormones that activate your nervous system. This may result in symptoms such as irritability, exhaustion, anxiety, insomnia, stomach aches, skin conditions (such as acne), panic attacks, hyperventilation, hives and more. One of the most common issues experienced from stress is a “tension headache,” which results from tense muscles in the face, head and neck. This can cause pressure around the forehead, scalp tenderness and mild to moderate pain.
Most of these symptoms are short-lived, but if the root cause of the stress is prolonged and continues to disrupt your peace, you may encounter more serious long-term effects on your body.
Long-term Impact of Stress on the Body
Being stressed out for long periods of time as you work through trauma or endure a particularly challenging time in your life can result in much more severe issues than an occasional headache. Extended bouts of stress can cause any or all of the following:
- Stomach ulcers
- High blood pressure
- Heart Arrhythmia
- Heart disease and/or heart attack
- Asthma or arthritis flare-ups
- Eczema or psoriasis
- Low libido
- Fertility issues
- Weight fluctuations
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic sleep issues
- Depression & anxiety
Though these issues are all treatable, everything should be done to prevent them from occurring in the first place. With proper stress management, the likelihood of developing these long-term symptoms can be greatly reduced.
How to Reduce Stress
There are several ways that you can mitigate stress through lifestyle changes. Among the most effective are:
Good nutrition. Fuel your system with healthy foods rich in vitamins and avoid eating processed foods high in sugar. Your physical body will be stronger and therefore less susceptible to many stress-induced ailments.
Limit alcohol consumption. Though drinking beverages like red wine in moderation may have health benefits, the important part is to enjoy a minimal amount. Anything in excess can compound stress instead of reducing it.
Regular exercise. Maintain a routine amount of physical activity several times per week to boost your endorphins and strengthen your immune system.
Social connections. Give support to those you care about and be open to receive their support when you need it most. Emotional bonds can act as vital mental safety nets during times of trouble.
Get sufficient sleep. If possible, sleep 7 – 8 hours each night to give your body time to regenerate and recharge for the day ahead.
Practice mindfulness. Whether you pray, meditate, do breath work or create art, do something spiritually that brings you to a calm and peaceful state.
Consult with a Medical Professional
If you need help with stress reduction, the Western Washington Medical Group Department of Psychology is here to help. To request an on-site appointment, complete the form on this page. For a TeleHealth appointment, provide your information on this page. If you have general inquires, get in touch via this page.
To save time during your in-person appointment, be sure to visit this page to complete the relevant forms prior to your arrival.