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The Effects of Stress on the Body

Stress can occur while sitting in traffic when you’re running late or when you have a huge project deadline fast approaching. Little blips of stress aren’t too big of a deal and may actually be good for you, but recurring or chronic stress can be detrimental to your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Worried about stress? Your general medicine practitioner can help.

What does stress do to the body?

Whenever we’re stressed, our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode. This is our body’s stress response, and it allows us to determine whether we need to flee or stay and fight. When your body goes into this mode, both your blood pressure and heart rate increase, and the muscles contract to prepare your body to protect itself.

Chronic stress can take quite a toll on your body and health. Those with chronic stress are more at risk for developing:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Obesity
  • Eating disorders
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Acne
  • Psoriasis
  • Hair loss
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Heart disease including heart attacks and stroke
  • Loss of menstruation or irregular cycles

What are the signs of stress?

Stress shows up differently in everyone. Some people experience only physical symptoms while others experience mental and emotional symptoms or a mix of both. Mental and emotional signs of stress include:

  • Increased moodiness, irritability, and restlessness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Fast, racing thoughts and trouble quieting these thoughts
  • A decrease in self-esteem
  • Feeling depressed or lonely
  • Avoiding social interactions and isolating oneself

The physical signs of stress include:

  • Shakiness
  • Nervousness
  • Sweaty palms
  • Teeth grinding
  • Decreased sex drive
  • An increase in illnesses
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea

Stress also impacts the mind and your ability to think, and can lead to:

  • Memory problems
  • Forgetfulness
  • Incessant worry
  • Racing, intrusive thoughts
  • Trouble concentrating
  • An increase in negative thoughts

What can I do about stress?

Stress is just a part of life, but you can talk to your primary care physician about ways to better handle your stress. How you react to stress is key. If you’re having trouble getting your stress under control then your doctor can provide you with a variety of recommendations and treatment options, including medications, counseling, and support groups. Some ways to ease the stress on your own include,

  • Incorporating self-care into your daily routine
  • Deep breathing and meditation
  • Regular exercise
  • Eating a healthy diet that is low in sugar, starches, and processed foods
  • Limiting alcohol and caffeine
  • Quit or avoid smoking
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Make time for activities you love like cooking or reading a book

Don’t let stress and overwhelm impact your health and wellbeing. Your general medicine doctor can provide you with advice, recommendations, and referrals to help you get your stress under control.

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