What Is The Impact Of Stress On The Body?

Stress can often show itself as a confusing mix of physical and mental symptoms which are not always easy to spot or associate with a root cause. Stress is also often triggered by external factors outside of our body, so it can be difficult to understand how we are being affected by it.

In this blog, we will be explaining what exactly is happening to our bodies when we feel stress and how stress impacts us psychologically and physiologically.

It is important to start by explaining that stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to things that happen in everyday life. Essentially, our body uses a ‘fight or flight’ response to ensure that we are ready to avoid danger and so for immediate, short-term situations stress can be beneficial to our health.

However, when the body continues to act in this way for extended periods of time it can do more damage that good.

So, What Exactly Is the Impact on the Body When We Feel Stressed?

In this section of the article we will try to explain what happens within the body overall, whilst delving deeper into each of the internal systems to explain the interconnections.

Central Nervous System

Illustration-of-central-nervous-system-and-the-impact-of-stress-on-the-body

Our central nervous system controls our ‘fight or flight’ response.

It all starts in the brain. The hypothalamus begins by sending signals to your adrenal glands, ‘telling’ it to release two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase your heartbeat in order to send more blood around your body to your muscles and vital organs.

This allows us to respond and act quickly to whichever dangers we are presented with. The problem is that in modern life, our central nervous system (CNS) can confuse things of immediate physical danger with things we perceive to be worrying or troubling. This means that the hypothalamus does not ‘switch off’ when it should, resulting in long term feelings of stress.

Respiratory System

Illustration-of-the-respiratory-system

As the two hormones are released by the hypothalamus, our body will also try to ensure that the blood we send around our body is oxygen-rich.

In order to do so, we breathe faster.

If you have an existing breathing problem such as asthma or emphysema, this can put additional stress on your respiratory system and make it harder to breathe.

The other danger here is that as your heart rate rises to pump more oxygen-rich blood around your body, your blood pressure will also rise. This means addressing our stress will keep our hearts and vascular system healthier.

Muscular System

Illustration-of-muscular-system-and-the-impact-of-stress-on-the-body

Much-like the feeling of flinching as something is rapidly coming towards you, our muscles will tense up during periods of stress to protect themselves from damage. As your feeling of stress subsides, you will begin to relax and so too will your muscles.

However, if your body is constantly feeling the results of stress, your muscles can remain tense for longer periods of time than what is healthy for the body.

This can cause headaches, shoulder aches, back aches and other body aches or strains.

This is an important factor , because so many people misidentify symptoms of pain as being caused by a physical accident or knock, rather than being caused by the mental factors of stress. This can cause confusion when trying to think back and identify something that triggered your pain.

It is just as important to consider triggering moments or periods of stress as a root cause of physical pain, as it is to consider a physical accident.

Immune System

Illustration-of-the-immune-system

Another system within our bodies that is affected by stress is the immune system.

The immune system helps us fight off infection and heal wounds. However, if the hypothalamus is releasing a consistent and sustained number of hormones to your body, your immune system can become weakened.

People that are feeling the effects of long-term stress (otherwise known as chronic stress) will become much more susceptible to becoming ill with viruses like the flu or the common cold.

This point is ever more important within the current COVID-19 situation. It is a very difficult cycle to break.

We all naturally feel more stressed due to the plethora of information and news that we are bombarded with every day about the coronavirus pandemic. It is perfectly natural that we should experience periods of stress, but it makes it even more important to ensure you are caring for your body at this time.

How Can You Combat the Effects of Stress?

We have put together some useful information to explain how you can combat the effects of stress to ensure that your body and mind remain healthy.

Relieve Your Stress with Osteopathy

8 Healthy Ways to Manage Stress

How Can Osteopathy Help?

Osteopathy has many non-intrusive and natural techniques to help relieve stress. We will help you to identify whether stress is a contributing factor to your problem and work towards helping you feel better.

At Osteopathy For All, we offer consultations and continue to support our clients and the wider community with osteopathic services.

Visit our appointments page, call us on 01825 840582 or email hello@osteopathyforall.co.uk to speak to one of our team.

If you are seeking urgent mental health support, here is a list of urgent support channels available to help you.