How does stress affect your physical and mental health?

How does stress affect your physical and mental health?
Stress at work, relationship stress, financial stress, etc., you may find yourself unable to get rid of stress, or you may simply find that stress is preventing you from focusing. However, you may not be aware of impact stress has on your physical health.

Stress doesn't just affect your health in short term, it can have long-term effects. Even if your stress is temporary and doesn't interfere with your daily life too much, it can still take a toll on your body. Here are a few ways stress can affect your health.

How does stress affect your physical and mental health?
1. Stress disrupts endocrine system

When you are stressed, your body produces a hormonal response. The most talked about stress hormone is cortisol. Cortisol is one of hormones involved in fight or flight response and is essential for survival. But chronic overexposure to cortisol can lead to several adverse health effects. Stress also affects other endocrine systems, such as growth hormone, X-hormone, and even insulin. ​

2. Stress can make your heart beat faster

High heart rate is a well-known physiological response to stress. One of hormones released during stress is adrenaline. Adrenaline causes a temporary increase in heart rate, which is your body's way of increasing circulation in case you need it in a dangerous situation. Many of stressful situations we face are not biohazardous, but your body reacts as if they were.

How does stress affect your physical and mental health?
3. Stress can make breathing difficult

Stress causes muscle tension. This tension is not unique to any one muscle group - it affects muscles around chest and lungs. You may find it difficult to breathe, or you may experience sudden shortness of breath. Calm breathing exercises or slow stretches can help.

4. Stress affects your mood

Unsurprisingly, stress can ruin your mood. People who experience stress may experience symptoms of irritability and mood swings. Instead of being rude to your co-workers in other ways, it might be worth trying some stress management techniques to see if they help solve problem.

5. Stress can increase anxiety

Stress and anxiety are not same thing. But stress can exacerbate existing anxiety. According to American Psychological Association, stress is an emotional response usually triggered by an external trigger, while anxiety is persistent, excessive worry that doesn't go away even in absence of stressor. An accumulation of small stressors or a major stressful event can increase risk of developing an anxiety disorder or exacerbate an existing one.

How does stress affect your physical and mental health?
6. Stress can lead to depression

Research shows a link between stress and depression. According to Mayo Clinic, chronic stress can increase your risk of depression, especially if you're not coping well with stress.

7. Stress can cause headaches

Stress can trigger so-called tension headaches, and its severity depends on person and intensity of stress. Recurrent tension headaches can occur after a single stressful event, but some people experience chronic tension headaches due to prolonged stress.

How does stress affect your physical and mental health?
8. Stress can disrupt sleep

Stress can really keep you awake at night, and when you don't get enough sleep, a lot can happen. Sleep deprivation can lead to a domino effect and other health consequences. According to National Sleep Foundation, people with high levels of stress tend to have poorer sleep quality. Stress hormones are highest at night when you want to sleep. Too many stress hormones can get in way. Lack of sleep can lead to increased levels of stress hormones, further impairing sleep.

9. Stress can lead to memory loss

If you are stressed at school because of an upcoming exam, it can affect your ability to remember and affect what you learn. According to a review of research published in The Journal of EXCLI, stress can lead to impaired verbal memory, decreased spatial memory, difficulty acquiring and creating new memories, and even impair long-term memory.

10. Stress can lead to high blood pressure

Stress has a dual effect on blood pressure. A short-term increase in blood pressure also has a long-term detrimental effect. In short term, stress hormones can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure. This is due to increased heart rate and vasoconstriction. In long term, there is no direct causal relationship between stress and high blood pressure, but studies have shown that repeated short-term increases in blood pressure increase likelihood of long-term high blood pressure. In addition, coping mechanisms people use when under stress can increase their risk of developing high blood pressure. These include smoking, drinking alcohol, and neglecting sleep.

How does stress affect your physical and mental health?
11. Stress increases risk of stroke

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is leading cause of death, and there are many things you can do to prevent it. Limiting stress and improving mental health can be a good start. Research shows a significant link between stress and stroke risk.

12. Stress can increase risk of a heart attack

"You almost gave me a heart attack" might just be an expression, but there's a reason for that. Your emotional stress and heart attack risk. According to American Stress Institute, stress-related coping mechanisms are an important risk factor for heart attacks, which tend to occur after particularly stressful events such as natural disasters.

How does stress affect your physical and mental health?
13. Stress can increase risk of type 2 diabetes.

One of hormones affected by stress is insulin. The researchers suggest that this may explain strong link between diabetes and stress. In fact, according to Diabetes Association, hormonal fight-or-flight response to stress may not work in people with diabetes. Stress can increase a woman's risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a study presented at 2018 American Heart Association meeting. It may also be due to sudden release of glucose.

14. Stress increases risk of ulcers

It is important to note that stress does not directly cause ulcers. Often cause is H. pylori infection in stomach. However, changes in acidity that occur during periods of stress can increase risk of developing an ulcer.

15. Stress weakens immune system

In short term, stress strengthens your immune system. The fight-or-flight response forces immune system to move faster to heal any potential wounds. However, long-term effects of stress are negative: people who suffer from chronic stress have weaker immune systems and are more susceptible to infections ranging from common cold to more serious illnesses.

How does stress affect your physical and mental health?
16. Stress can make you tired

According to research, there is a link between stress and feeling tired. Stress is just one of many lifestyle factors that can drain your energy, making you more tired than usual.