08 May How Stress Impacts Your Mental and Physical Health
Stress can interfere with your mental and physical health tremendously. Everyday frustrations and mild “stressors” may seem minor, but your nervous system is taking note. That annoying traffic on your way to work or the group text message causing your phone to beep every five seconds impacts your mental and physical health. If you want to feel better, you’ve got to minimize the stressors in your life.
Many of us rush through our days, without paying much attention, and it makes us miserable. When you become aware of how stress impacts your health, you can take the necessary steps to rebuild your body and mind. The first step is recognizing how much stress you’re actually dealing with, both consciously and unconsciously.
The American Psychological Association reports that about half of Americans report lying awake at night due to feeling “stressed.” And one-third of Americans feel they are living with extreme stress, with over 75 percent of people reporting that they feel their majors stressors are related to money and work. Stress impacts your body, mind and interferes in relationships. The more you can recognize the physical and emotional signs of stress, the easier it becomes to eliminate stressors in your life.
Stress and Your Well-Being
Your brain and body are one. If you find that your body is exhausted, but your mind won’t stop racing, it’s a warning sign: you’re stressed. Ignoring the physical symptoms can lead to long-term health problems such as:
Sleep Problems and Insomnia. Sleep is vital for optimal mental and physical health. When stressed, your brain has a difficult time relaxing. Melatonin (the hormone that helps you sleep) doesn’t work as efficiently because your cortisol levels may be elevated. Without enough sleep, your brain cannot detoxify and repair at night. When your body doesn’t get the rest it needs, you are more likely to get sick, feel on edge and, unfortunately, become even more stressed.
Increased Risk for Depression. As noted, stress elevates cortisol levels. You may be stressed from a recent event of something that has built up over time. Regardless of the cause, depression may be triggered in some people. Stress can cause one to feel sad, hopeless, overwhelmed and create some difficulties in functioning.
Poor Digestion/Stomach Problems. Stress may start in the mind, but it often manifests itself in the body. Physical symptoms, especially in the Gastrointestinal (GI) tract, in the form of stomachaches, are often the first sign of stress. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that is caused by stress and is characterized by stomachaches, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, and/or diarrhea, is an illness exacerbated by stress. The gut is very sensitive to psychological stress. Ulcers, acid reflux and nutritional deficiencies all can be traced back to it.
These are just a few of the mental and physical ramifications of stress. If you are noticing that any of these symptoms are occurring for you or a loved one, contact your doctor or mental health practitioner as soon as possible. One of the most important things we can do to manage and reduce stress is to practice self-care. If you find that you’re taking on others’ stress take some time to tune into your needs. The more you take care of yourself, the better equipped you are to handle the stress that inevitably will come into your life.
Emily Roberts, MA, LPC