Stress is a common experience that can have a significant impact on both our physical and mental health. Our stress levels can be triggered by many things, such as work or relationship challenges, financial pressures, or health issues, to name a few. In this post, we will explore how stress affects our physical and mental health and provide practical solutions to manage it.
Effects of Stress on Physical Health
Increased blood pressure
When you experience stress, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that can cause your heart to beat faster and harder, which increases blood pressure. If your blood pressure remains elevated for an extended period, it can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Muscle tension and pain
Stress can cause your muscles to tense up, leading to aches and pains in your neck, shoulders, and back. This tension can also cause headaches and migraines. You may notice that your pain worsens during stressful times, and if left unmanaged, it can lead to chronic pain conditions.
The gut and brain are closely connected. In fact, the gut is known as the ‘second brain.’ So you can imagine that when we are stressed, our digestive system is interrupted. This can lead to stomach pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Stress can also worsen existing conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Weakened immune system
When you’re under stress, your body sends signals to focus all energy and resources on fighting the stress, rather than keeping you healthy. Essentially, your body is in ‘survival’ mode. This means that prolonged stress can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
Effects of Stress on Mental Health
Anxiety and depression
Stress can trigger anxiety and depression, leading to symptoms such as consistent worry, irritability, difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness, and loss of motivation or interest in activities you used to enjoy.
Memory and concentration issues
Ever noticed that when you’re stressed, it feels impossible to accomplish anything? That’s because your brain produces more cortisol, which can interfere with normal brain functions. Stress can also affect your ability to concentrate, making it harder to focus on tasks or make coherent decisions.
Poor sleep quality
Stress can interfere with your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, leading to insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns. Poor sleep quality can worsen stress and make it harder to cope with your day-to-day activities.
Forming unhealthy habits
When stress gets overwhelming, many individuals need an outlet for relief. Unfortunately, relief isn’t always found in the healthiest ways. Some people may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with stress, others may turn to overeating or overexercising. While these outlets may provide temporary relief, they can lead to addiction or worsen mental and physical health problems.
Solutions to Keep Mental and Physical Health in Check During Stressful Times
Regular exercise can help reduce stress levels by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Exercise also promotes better sleep, boosts self-esteem, and provides a healthy outlet for stress.
Mindfulness and meditation
Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help reduce stress levels by promoting relaxation and mental clarity. These practices involve focusing your attention on the present moment, which can help you let go of worries and anxieties.
Seeking support from family and friends can help reduce stress levels and provide a sense of belonging and comfort. Connecting with others can help you feel less alone and more supported during difficult times.
Speaking to a qualified professional during stressful times can be incredibly helpful. There are many services that can help stress levels such as stress management classes, chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, and general therapy.
Eating a balanced diet can help reduce stress levels by providing the body with essential nutrients needed to function optimally. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help stabilize your mood and energy levels.
Practicing good sleep practices, such as creating a relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding electronics before bed, and keeping your sleep environment cool and dark, can help promote restful sleep and reduce stress levels.
Daily Stress Management Techniques
Deep breathing exercises
Taking deep breaths and focusing on breathing patterns can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. Breathing exercises can be done anytime and anywhere and can help you feel more calm and more centered.
Reframing negative thoughts and practicing positive self-talk can help reduce stress levels and improve overall mood.
If you’re unable to exercise consistently, try to move your body for at least 20 minutes a day to rid your body of negative, anxious energy and improve your mood. This could be as simple as going for a walk each morning before work or on your lunch break.
Stress is an uncomfortable yet common experience we all go through, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Different techniques may work better for different people, and it’s important to experiment and find what works best for you.
Here at Albany Chiropractic & Physical Therapy, we offer services such as chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, and physical therapy, which can help alleviate physical symptoms of stress. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you manage stress and improve your overall well-being!