Stress & Your Body

February 25, 2022

Stress is our body’s normal reaction to many situations and it happens to everyone. When you experience changes or challenges in life (stressors), your body produces a physical and mental response to those challenges. That natural reaction is called stress.

What is stressing Americans out?  According to Statista, the COVID-19 pandemic is at the top of that list.  Stress can be a positive thing by keeping us alert, motivated, and prepared to avoid danger.  An example of this would be when you have a project due and you are able to stay up later than normal working on it almost furiously the night before.  Stress in this case is your body’s way of helping you stay up later and work harder.  However, when you continue like that without any periods of rest it is not good for your body.

What happens to the body during stress?

Our body’s autonomic nervous system controls our heart rate, breathing, vision changes, and more. That built-in stress response is called the “fight-or-flight response,” helping our body to face stressful situations.

When you experience long-term (chronic) stress, continued activation of the stress response can cause wear and tear on the body. This will cause physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms to develop.

Physical symptoms can include the following:

  • Aches and pains.
  • Chest pain or it feels like your heart is racing.
  • Trouble sleeping or exhaustion.
  • Headaches, dizziness, or shaking.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Muscle tension or jaw clenching.
  • Stomach or digestive problems.
  • Trouble having sex.
  • Weak immune system.

The emotional and mental symptoms of stress look like:

Often, people with chronic stress will try coping with stress in an unhealthy manner, including:

  • Drinking alcohol too much or too often.
  • Gambling.
  • Overeating or developing an eating disorder.
  • Participating compulsively in sex, shopping, or internet browsing.
  • Smoking.
  • Drug use.

If you feel as though your stress is severe or chronic, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. 

Tips for stress relief

There is no real way to avoid stress.  You can stop it from becoming overwhelming by practicing some of these daily strategies:

  • Exercise. Even a short walk can improve your mood.
  • Try to focus on what you accomplished during the day, not what you didn’t get done.
  • Set goals for your day, week, and month. Creating goals will help you feel more in control.
  • Talk to a therapist or your healthcare provider about your concerns.

Ways to prevent stress

  • Find ways to relax.  Meditation, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, and muscle relaxation are all good options. 
  • Take care of yourself.  Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, and get your sleep. 
  • Focus on the positive and practice gratitude.
  • Keep in mind you can’t control everything. Try to focus on the things that are in your control and to let go of the worry of the things you have no control over.
  • It is okay to decline an invitation to meet up with someone or to say no to any added projects in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Make time for people who keep you calm, make you happy, provide emotional support and help you with practical things. 

If you are dealing with stress it can be a short-term issue or a long-term problem, depending on what changes you make in your life.  If you develop some healthy practices as we shared with you here.  It can help you regulate your stress levels and avoid any health issues. 

Remember that stress is natural.  If it begins to feel severe it is time to talk to your doctor.  Here at the OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch, we are dedicated to providing personalized healthcare for each and every woman. Contact us to find out why we are one of the most trusted names in women’s health.