Experiencing too much stress in your life can be exhausting and dangerous, and it can affect the way you think and act and the way your body functions. Stress can cause both physical and mental health issues, leading to behavior changes and—in some cases—putting you at risk of serious medical complications. In this blog, we'll take a look at how stress affects your body and behavior so that you can better understand its implications on overall health.
A Weakened Immune System
Stress can affect your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to colds and illnesses. When you are under high levels of stress, your body produces hormones such as cortisol that suppress the effectiveness of the immune system. This can make it harder for your body to fight off infections and illnesses, resulting in frequent bouts of colds and cases of the flu.
Another way stress can affect your body and behavior is by causing physical pain, which may manifest in the form of headaches and tense muscles. Muscle tension and headaches are often associated with stress due to the body's release of hormones such as adrenaline, which can cause increased heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure. Constant stress and elevated levels of hormones can result in chronic joint pain, neck pain, and back pain.
Bolstered Bad Habits
Stress can lead to changes in your behavior, such as overeating, smoking, or drinking more alcohol than usual. When we feel stressed, our bodies release hormones such as dopamine that stimulate reward centers in the brain. To cope with stress, people may resort to unhealthy behaviors that can result in further complications.
Some stress is normal, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need help, there are resources available. If the effects of stress are having a negative impact on your life, consider talking to a professional counselor or therapist. They can provide guidance and help you develop healthy coping strategies to manage your stress properly. Furthermore, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, eating healthy foods, spending quality time with friends, and getting enough sleep are all great ways to reduce stress. Taking steps to manage your stress can help you regain control of your life and restore balance in both body and mind.
And if you're stressed all the time for seemingly no reason, it may also be worth taking a test to measure your cortisol levels—it could be that your symptoms are due to your body overproducing this key stress hormone, causing you to feel perpetually on-edge. Asking your doctor for an in-office evaluation or performing an at-home test can help you discover the root cause behind unusually high levels of stress.