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Stress and Health

We’ve all been stressed at some point in our lives. Sometimes stress can be a positive force motivating you to perform well such as that of a job interview or a sporting event, but often it can be a negative force. Stress symptoms may be affecting your health and your body without you even realising it. You may think illness is to blame for that niggling headache, those weird aches and pains in your body, that insomnia or your decrease productivity at work or in training, but stress may actually be the culprit.

Stress symptoms affect your body, your thoughts and your feelings, as well as your behaviour – I know personally when I get stressed I get headaches and become little snappy and sometimes distant as well as over think things. Being able to recognise these common stress symptoms can give you a head start in managing and controlling it. This type of stress can be short lived and learning how to deal with it is very beneficial, Stress that is left unchecked can contribute to many other health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Here are some of the common effects of stress

Stress on your Body


Muscle tension and pain

Chest pain


Sleep problems

Stomach upset

Stress on your Mood



Lack focus

Feeling overwhelmed


Sadness/ Depressed

Stress on your Behaviour

Over/ Under eating

Angry outbursts

Drug and alcohol abuse

Tobacco use

Social with drawl

Decrease in exercise

Stress effects on the body

Muscular System – When the body is stressed, muscles tense up. This is to guide the body away from injury and pain. With a sudden onset of stress your muscles will tense up, and once the stress has passed that tension goes. Chronic stress causes the body to go into a constant state of guardedness. When muscles are tense for a prolonged period of time this can cause and promote stress related disorders such as tension type headaches and migraines, which are associated with muscle tension in the shoulders, neck and head.

Respiratory System – Stress can make breathing harder, particularly if you have asthma or emphysema, so getting oxygen into the body can be harder. In addition stress can cause rapid breathing or hyper ventilation that can bring on a panic attack.

Cardiovascular system – Acute stress such as that of trying to meet a deadline or being stuck in traffic causes and increase in heart rate and stronger contraction of the heart muscle triggering the stress hormone adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol acting as messengers for these effects. This is known as fight or flight and once the acute stress passes, your body will go back to normal state. Chronic stress or constant stress over a prolonged period of time can contribute to long term problems for the heart. The constant state of elevation of your heart rate and elevated stress hormones can cause problems with blood pressure, increased risk of hypertension, heart attacks and strokes. Repeated or consistent acute stress can contribute to inflammation in the circulatory system, particularly the coronary arteries that tie in with heart attacks.

Endocrine System – Liver – when cortisol is released, the liver produces more glucose, a blood sugar that would give you the energy for ‘fight or flight’, in an emergency. For most people if you can’t use this energy the body will reabsorb the excess sugar, however if you are vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes – that extra blood sugar can cause diabetes.

Gastrointestinal – Stomach – when you’re stressed the brain becomes more alert to sensations in the stomach, and can give you symptoms of butterflies, nausea or pain. You may want to vomit when you are feeling stress, and if stress becomes chronic you may develop ulcers. Bowel – Stress can also affect the digestion of nutrients which can lead to diarrhoea or constipation.

Nervous System – The nervous system has several divisions – the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system consisting of the autonomic nervous system and somatic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system has a direct response to stress. When the body becomes stressed the nervous system will generate a response called ‘fight or flight’ – basically it will shift its energy to tackling that stress or fleeing away from the enemy. The nervous system will release the hormones adrenalin and cortisol, these hormones cause the heart to beat faster, breathing rate to increase, digestive process to change and glucose levels in the blood stream to increase. Chronic stress over a prolonged period can result in long term draining of the body meaning you are more likely to get injured or ill.

As you can see not all stress in bad, however reducing and managing your stress levels will have major benefits for your body, health and overall mental and physical wellbeing. There are several ways to reduce your stress levels to help promote a healthier you inside and outside...

  1. Avoid or severally limit your alcohol, caffeine and nicotine intake – these are all stimulants or depressants when taken it large quantities.

  2. Indulge in physical activity – This will help you feel, fresher, sleep better and promote endorphin's which make you feel better in yourself.

  3. Get more sleep – This allows the body and the mind to repair and boosts mood and energy.

  4. Try relaxation techniques – This helps to relax the mind.

  5. Talk to someone – Talking can either distract you from stressful thoughts or help you release tension by discussing it.

  6. Manage your time – We all feel overburdened at some time by our ‘to do’ lists. Accept not everything can be done at once and prioritise.

  7. Learn to say NO – If you don’t have enough time, don’t agree to take on additional responsibility.

  8. Rest if you are Ill – If you are feeling unwell, let the body recover.

Exercise is great for health and wellbeing. If you are looking to incorporate a health and fitness program into your life style, or are interested in find out ways you can increase the productivity of your employees and reduce the days they are off sick due to stress related illnesses please feel free to contact us at Build a Body –

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