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Stress: What it Does to Your Body

As we continue to explore anxiety and the impact stress, I thought this would be an ideal time to discuss some of the physical symptoms that stress can have on your body. Simply put: stress leads to distress – so much so that 77% of Americans experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Distress of your body manifests itself in various ways for each person. For some, it can resemble a headache or migraine, it can upset your digestive tract, increase your blood pressure, reduce sleep and even cause chest pain. Some research has suggested when your body is in distress, it may exacerbate (bring on or worsen) certain illnesses and diseases. Additionally, when people try and use tobacco, alcohol or other drugs (including prescriptions) to relieve stress, the long-term effect may be more harmful than helpful for your body.  

Looking at some basic statistics, 44% of Americans have reported feeling more stressed than they did five years ago; three out of four doctor visits are for stress-related ailments; work stress causes 10% of strokes; the basic cause of 60% of all human illness is caused by stress; more than 40% of people stress eat; 44% lose sleep each night due to stress; and stress increases 40% of heart disease, 25% risk of heart attacks and 50% risk of stroke. 


Examining physical symptoms more closely, the American Psychological Association in 2014 reported these statistics for those who expressed physical manifestations of stress. They included:
  • Fatigue – 51%
  • Headache – 44%
  • Upset stomach – 34%
  • Muscle tension – 30%
  • Change in appetite – 23%
  • Teeth grinding – 17%
  • Change in sex drive – 15%
  • Feeling dizzy – 13%
Psychological symptoms following the distress of physical manifestations included:
  • Irritability or anger – 50%
  • Feeling Nervous – 45%
  • Lack of energy 45%
  • Feeling as though you could cry – 35%
With these numbers being so high, it’s no wonder that 3 out of 4 doctor visits are stress-related! It’s important to understand the impact that stress and anxiety can have on your body. Sometimes, we do not even know that we are stressed or contribute physical ailments to stressful situations in life. Being mindful of your body and the reaction it has to daily events can offer insight of how to manage stress. Please see the previous blog for helpful suggestions/ healthy lifestyle changes to reduce your anxiety and stress.

Also, there is an interesting video available online (via Netflix, YouTube) titled: Stress, Portrait of a Killer. National Geographic takes a look at thirty years of research and examines scientific discoveries through field and lab research to prove stress is not just a state of mind, but measurable and dangerous.


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