Thursday, July 2, 2009

10 Mental and Physical Ways Stress Affects the Body

Stress can be a good thing when it motivates us and helps us get through difficult situations. Unfortunately, it can also have some pretty harmful effects, especially if an individual is under stress for an extended period of time. Many times, these effects aren’t even immediately evident, but can cause long-term damage if not properly managed.

Here are some mental and physical consequences of stress to look out for and react to when you see them.
  1. Constant fatigue. Stress can wear you down and make you feel tired even after you’ve just woken up. It can also lead to chronic insomnia which doesn’t help your sleep situation either.
  2. Aches and pains. If your muscles feel tense, tight and ache for no obvious reason then you may be experiencing the effects of stress. Those under stress tend to tense up their muscles, causing them to fatigue, ache and cause discomfort.
  3. Weakened immune system. Constant stress can wear down your immune system and lead to the development of colds as well as irritating or causing more persistent conditions like Crohn’s Disease, eczema, and ulcerative colitis.
  4. Increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Being stressed out constantly can take a toll on your circulatory system, especially if you have a history of other heart related conditions or high blood pressure. One of the major factors in developing heart disease can be stress, so keep yours in check.
  5. Digestive issues. From ulcers to simple heartburn, stress can throw your whole digestive system out of whack. If you notice that you’re experiencing digestive difficulties, take a moment to consider whether or not they could be related to your stress level.
  6. Mood swings. Stress can cause individuals to anger or become upset easily and if left unchanged for too long can even lead to depression.
  7. Mental fogginess. Concentration, memory and judgment can all take a turn for the worse when you’re under a large amount of stress, in many cases compounding the already negative effects of a stressful situation.
  8. Weight loss or gain. Whether you eat too much to deal with stress or eat too little because you’re under so much pressure, stress can make maintaining a balanced and healthy diet difficult.
  9. Changes in appearance. There are few things that will age you more quickly than stress, and those who undergo extended periods of worry and anxiety will likely see more wrinkles, graying of the hair and hair loss.
  10. Sexual dysfunction. Sexual activity can be a good stress relief, but in many cases stress may make it difficult or impossible to engage in sexual activity.

The best way to avoid these kinds of health problems is to reduce the amount of stress in your life, or find a way to relax and release these stresses before they become a problem.
This post was contributed by Megan Jones, who writes about nursing colleges. She welcomes your feedback at Meg.Jones0310 at

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