Have you been experiencing more headaches, stomach problems or trouble sleeping?
Your body may be trying to tell you something.
You may be stressed out – even if you don’t realize it.
Often nagging symptoms like difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, nausea, headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue are indicators of poor mental and emotional health.
We’re going to talk about the effects stress has on the body, some warning signs of stress, and give you some ways you can reduce and manage the daily stress in your life.
How High Are Americans’ Stress Levels?
The APA (American Psychological Association) recently released its 2020 report on stress. The study found unprecedented levels of stress, with 1 in 5 adults reporting worse mental health this year than last year.
Much of this is due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The economic stress, job stress, fear of getting sick, fear of loved ones getting sick, social distancing, and isolation have only added to the usual daily stressors.
But even before COVID-19, Americans were facing a hidden epidemic of mental health issues that were lowering quality of life and worsening chronic diseases.
And all of this added stress is taking its toll both mentally and physically.
The Mental Effects Of Stress
The mental effects of stress are fairly easy to spot and most people recognize them. They include:
- Mental fog
While these effects are mental in nature, they are acting in coordination with the effects stress has on the body. One feeds the other.
When we’re stressed, our body’s “fight or flight” mechanism goes into action, with a host of physical changes in our bodies.
The Physical Effects Of Stress
You may be able to play off the mental effects of stress as “just having a bad day”. That’s how people can often be under stress and not even realize it.
The physical effects of stress, however, can be very pronounced and affect every system in the body. This is due to stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline released by the brain under stress.
People with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are especially at risk. The negative effects of stress on the body can exacerbate and in some cases worsen their condition.
If we pay attention to these symptoms, we can learn to recognize when we’re under stress and do something about it before it gets worse.
So what are some of the physical warning signs of stress?
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle soreness
- Chest pain
If you notice that you are consistently having one or more of these symptoms, it’s time to stop, assess and do something about what stressing you.
But how do you manage stress when the things stressing you are unavoidable?
7 Ways To Manage Stress
Everyone would love to just check out to a tropical island to get away from everything and destress. In the real world, stressors can’t be avoided, but there are some easy things we can do to not only deal with stress but to make ourselves mentally and physically healthier overall.
Here are some stress management tips:
- Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise isn’t just good for the body – it also releases “feel good” endorphins which help regulate mood, reduce stress, and improve mental health. Even if you’re a couch potato, start a beginner’s exercise routine.
Meditating for as little as 5 minutes can do wonders for stress levels. It can something as simple as sitting quietly for 5 – 10 minutes, a guided meditation, or practicing a mindfulness technique.
- Eat Healthy
It’s true that you are what you eat. A healthy diet, well-balanced diet will improve your overall general wellbeing and improve mood.
- Drink Less Alcohol
Sure that glass of wine after work is a great way to unwind, but drinking too much can have serious negative impacts on your mental health and not doing you any favors for your stress level. Drink alcohol in moderation.
- Take A Self Assessment
Are you stressed out? How do you know? Ask yourself some questions:
- How is my sleeping?
- Am I fatigued?
- Am I craving junk food and sweets
- Are my muscles sore?
- Have I been grinding my teeth?
- Get A Hobby
Doesn’t matter what it is: knitting, painting little fluffy clouds, cooking, or working on your car. Engaging in a hobby is a great way to disengage your mind from everything that’s stressing you and unwind.
- Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness techniques are an easy way to lower your stress levels. Try the 5-5-5 breathing technique. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, then breathe out for 5 seconds. This mindfulness technique is great in a pinch when you need instant de-stressing.
Most people equate stress and mental health, but stress affects more than just your state of mind. Our whole health depends on a balance between mental and physical health.
Stress is the one thing that affects both. So don’t forget to take time to make a quick self-assessment to scan yourself for stress.
This is especially true if you have any of the physical symptoms we mentioned above.
Remember to listen to what your body is telling you – it may just be letting you know that you’re really stressed out.