What Does Stress Do To The Body?

Updated October 7, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Stress is defined as “the psychological perception of pressure.” Stress is an assault on the mental, emotional, and physical state of each human being. Unfortunately, many people are plagued with chronic stress due to life’s various demands. Despite the general knowledge that the effects of stress are so dangerous, the psychological perception of pressure remains a genuine issue in so many lives. But what is stress?

In recent years, mainstream society has begun to discuss how stress affects mental and emotional health. While these impacts are important, we cannot forget that stress also affects physical health, as well as our ability to practice vulnerability. Understanding what stress does to the body matters; physical health can impact human beings just as much its mental and emotional counterparts.

A Brief Review of Chronic Stress

Release Stress From The Body And Enjoy A Healthier Life

The American Psychological Association explains that extended, ongoing stress turns into chronic stress when left unchecked. Chronic stress not only complicates the process of a healthy stress response, but this type of stress also impacts your ability to function in everyday life. If you’re already dealing with specific issues in life, chronic stress can worsen these issues and create new ones of their own.

Because of the way that chronic stress affects you across the board, it’s pretty safe to say that you don’t want it. However, chronic stress doesn’t materialize overnight. As a matter of fact, some form of stress is typically ongoing for a while before it becomes chronic. It goes without saying that the longer that stress lasts, the more dangerous it becomes, and the higher your likelihood of experiencing chronic stress is.

Six Things that Stress Does to the Body

The effects of stress on the body are uniquely harmful and debilitating. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, your immune, digestive, respiratory systems can take severe hits from stress; other parts of your body are also vulnerable to the negative impacts of tension. Knowing what stress does to the body is not meant to frighten you, but rather to keep you in the loop. Awareness can play a critical role in the process of prevention.

Weakens the Immune System

Your immune system is vital to the health and wellness of your body. Unfortunately, one of the most damaging ways that stress takes its toll is by weakening your immune system. The toll of long-term, ongoing stress causes your immune system’s defenses to regress. Without a strong immune system, your physical body becomes more vulnerable to viruses, infections, and diseases. Needless to say, sicknesses of this nature can take a toll; if you are someone with already-existing health issues, the last thing you’ll want to be forced to deal with is a compromised immune system.

Increases Risk of Heart Attack

A higher likelihood of suffering from a heart attack is another unpleasant impact that stress has on the body. Overextended periods, the effects of stress cause a heightened heart rate along with high blood pressure damage to your arteries.

These factors combined increase your likelihood of suffering from a heart attack. As you may already know, heart attacks can be fatal and have claimed many lives. If you can at all avoid a heightened likelihood of experiencing a heart attack, you should.

Increases Vulnerability to Stomach Issues

A weaker immune system and increased likelihood of experiencing heart attack barely scratch the surface of what stress does to the body. Another unhealthy bodily stress response is greater vulnerability to stomach issues.

Because stress adversely impacts the body’s digestive system, the functions of your stomach take a hit. Nausea, stomach aches, and other similar problems are more likely to occur when you suffer from stress and especially frequent stress.

Spikes Your Blood Sugar

Another unpleasant way that stress affects the body is by causing the liver to release additional glucose into your body’s bloodstream. If this pattern persists for extended periods, your risk of type 2 diabetes increases exponentially.

A health problem of this nature comes along with symptoms of poor wound healing, fatigue, extreme thirst or hunger, and more. It goes without saying that the release of extra sugar in your bloodstream is something you’ll want to avoid.

Shortens Your Breathing

The ability to breathe clearly and regularly is an imperative bodily function. Unfortunately, yet another adverse stress response on the body is shortness of breath. During episodes of stress, the muscles in your body that allow you to breathe become tense and tight. This, in turn, interferes with the breathing process, hence leaving you with a shortness of breath.

On its own, shortness of breath is troublesome enough; however, if you suffer from additional health issues already, struggling to breathe clearly can be especially problematic, if not fatal.

In many cases, ongoing or intense episodes of stress are needed before your body struggles to breathe; however, each case is unique. Stress may have more severe impacts on your body than that of someone else’s or vice versa. Either way, your body will be even better off when it doesn’t have to contend with stress.

Creates Tension in Muscles

Muscle tension joins the list of yet another negative stress response on the human body. When your body undergoes stress, your muscles tense up; when stress on the body becomes chronic stress, the muscles suffer even worse impacts. Due to nature and longevity associated with chronic stress, headaches, and even backaches caused by muscle tension become possible.

Three Healthy Ways to Deal with Stress

It goes without saying that stress has incredibly harmful and traumatic impacts on the body. For these reasons, developing healthy ways to deal with stress is profoundly imperative. The right and proper stress response can make a significant difference and save your body from undergoing unnecessary harm.

Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Release Stress From The Body And Enjoy A Healthier Life

Most people experience some level of stress from time to time. However, proper actions and behaviors can significantly decrease, eliminate, or even prevent the presence of stress. By far, living a healthy lifestyle can be the best and greatest stress response. Little things make big differences, and consistently taking good care of yourself can pay dividends.

Getting a good night’s rest consistently is one important way to live a healthy lifestyle. Consuming a nutritious, well-balanced diet, taking breaks when necessary, and getting in exercise are additional ways to live healthily.

Eliminate Sources of Stress

Sometimes, the best stress response is to eliminate sources of stress altogether. If you find that your levels of stress spike when you are around certain people or environments, this speaks volumes. You may want to reconsider whether or not being around people or places that cause stress is worth it. If it is at all possible, removing yourself from any causes of stress is advisable. Your body, along with your mental and emotional health, will thank you.

Avoid Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

For better or for worse, each human being develops their own stress response. Sometimes, the chosen response to stress is healthy, but in other cases, it can be destructive. Examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms include abuse of drugs, excessive drinking, etc. Believe it, or another, unhealthy stress response or toxic coping mechanisms can actually worsen existing problems or issues.

Falling into unhealthy coping mechanisms can be easy, but what’s easy is not always best. In both the short-term and the long-term, you can benefit from a positive and constructive stress response. If you are dealing with both stress and unhealthy coping mechanisms, seeking professional help may prove to be of value to you.

How to Find Professional Help

There is never any shame in seeking out professional help when you believe it can benefit you. Whether you are looking for stress management techniques or dealing with something else entirely different, professional help can change your life.

Working with an online therapist can provide assistance with stress management; furthermore, you can begin to tackle challenging issues, learn more about who you are, and learn positive behaviors for your situation.

When you begin sessions with a BetterHelp online therapist, we can commit to having your best interests at heart. This means hearing you out, asking questions, and providing valuable feedback. Being receptive to the thoughts and responses from your online therapist plays a critical role in getting the most out of the process; likewise, you should also make sure to communicate any thoughts, concerns, and relevant information with your online therapist.

Online therapy can be effective and life-changing; although, it is not a quick fix. Working with an online therapist is a process; it requires work, dedication, and a willingness to make specific changes. No matter what, it’s important to remember that stress management, healthy coping mechanisms, and otherwise rising above hardships are each possible.

Only you can determine whether online therapy is a good fit for you. Should you decide that you would like to work with an online therapist, BetterHelp will be here to help support and guide you.

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