What role does stress play on your health?
Written by: Monica
Category: General Health
Published on: February 8, 2021

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Stress is any change in the environment that requires your body to react and adjust in response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses.

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 can experience good or bad forms of stress from your environment, body, and thoughts. Too much stress, however, can affect mental and physical health, particularly if it becomes chronic (ongoing) or overwhelming. Stress can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behaviour.

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If you are experiencing any stress symptoms, it’s best to see your doctor as it can contribute to a variety of health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. (1)

Body

The symptoms of stress and some changes that may happen to your body can include:

  • headaches
  • other aches and pains
  • sleep disturbance
  • fatigue
  • upset stomach and/or diarrhoea
  • high blood pressure
  • weakened immune system
  • muscle tension
  • change in sex drive (male or female)

Mind

The symptoms of stress affecting your mind, thoughts and feelings may include:

  • Anxiety or worry
  • Anger or irritability
  • depression or sadness
  • feeling overwhelmed and out of control
  • feeling restless
  • feeling moody or tearful
  • difficulty concentrating
  • low self-esteem, lack of confidence

Behaviour

The symptoms of stress that impact your behaviour include:

  • overeating or undereating
  • outbursts of anger
  • relationship problems
  • alcohol, smoking or drug abuse
  • avoiding people

Chronic and severe stress can increase the risk of developing depression, anxiety, substance abuse or a range of other mental disorders. If you are concerned you may have a mental health issue, visit your healthcare professional.

Stress Management

When your body senses danger, it releases stress hormones that cause short-term physical changes. These changes help you to stay focused and alert until things are under control. However, if stress is constant, and these changes persist, they can lead to serious problems in the long term. (2) 

People who exercise tend to feel less anxious and more positive about themselves. When your body feels good, your mind often follows. Get a dose of stress relief with these exercises:

  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Cycling
  • Aerobics

If you don’t have the time for a formal exercise program, you can still find ways to move throughout your day. Try these tips:

  • Bike instead of driving to the store
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park as far as you can from the door
  • Hand-wash your car
  • Clean your house
  • Walk on your lunch break

Diet

The benefits of eating healthy foods extend beyond your waistline, and can impact on your mental health. A healthy diet can lessen the effects of stress, build up your immune system, level your mood, and lower your blood pressure. As appealing as junk food can seem when you are feeling stressed, lots of added sugar and fat can have the opposite effect (3).

(1) https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/stress-symptoms

(2) https://au.reachout.com/articles/what-stress-does-to-the-body#:~:text=Nervous%20system,such%20as%20anxiety%20or%20depression.

(3)webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management#1

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