When we experience stress, it is common to blame those frequent headaches or stomach pains on another physical illness. However, stressful situations trigger a physiological reaction in our bodies causing headaches, feeling of nausea or other symptoms. This is also known as the ‘fight or flight response’. This sympathetic nervous system response is designed to protect our bodies, enabling us to react quickly to emergencies or threats.
Did you know stress does in fact have many positive aspects? It is a natural reaction to life experiences that everyone expresses from time to time, it can be a motivating force in our lives and strives for us to work harder by applying healthy pressure. However, when our stress hormones are activated daily and begin to manifest negatively, our physical health can start to be put at serious risk. For our second Stress Awareness Month article, we will explore some of the most common physical side effects of stress on different parts of the body.
Stress can have a very severe impact on our brains. Whilst dealing with stress, brains go through a series of good and bad reactions to tolerate the potential threat. A common side effect of stress is headaches and migraines, which are much more likely to occur when we are stressed. Stress can trigger a tension in the brain which can lead to a dull, aching pain or pressure across the forehead, the sides or back of the head. Also linked to the brain is the likelihood of increased depression and poor mental health. This is due to chronic stress taking its toll on our emotions and resulting in a depressive state.
Referencing back to the ‘fight or flight’ response our bodies experience when combating the stress hormone, the adrenaline of stress can cause our hearts to beat faster and therefore, rise our blood pressure and increase the production of stomach acid. Over time, an increased high blood pressure could lead to serious problems such as heart attacks. Even minor stress can cause heart problems such as frequent heartburn or poor blood flow to the heart muscle, which is why in Stress Awareness Month we are dedicated to raising awareness and creating resources to better understand our bodies and reach out for help in the early stages of stress.
It is known that stress can have some exhausting outcomes on our sexuality and reproductive systems. For those of us with menstrual cycles, stress can lead to painful, irregular, or heavy periods. If you are experiencing more chronic stress, this can also have a physical effect on the menopause and the severity of the symptoms you may be experiencing. For those of us with testosterone levels, you may see a decrease in the production of sperm and eventually, issues down the line with erectile dysfunction. If you are experiencing any of the above, please contact your GP to seek further advice and treatment.
For more information on the physical side effects of stress, please visit stress.org.uk to find more educational articles, resources, stress solutions and fundraising.