It’s almost impossible to remove stress from our lives completely. People are busy. We have work, family, events, obligations, and we have to eat occasionally. Somehow we have to fit in time to sleep, and maybe even have fun. However, some levels of stress start to become abnormal and the negative effects of stress can be powerful. When those stress levels begin to overflow, they leak into other areas. We tend to accept the stress and allow it to take over, especially when it has to do with work or obligations with loved ones like your spouse, children, or parents.
When our bodies react negatively, we tend to blame it on other things, like sleeping in a weird position, eating something that didn’t agree with us, or having a bad day. In reality, stress is a powerful thing and can have profound effects on your body. From various pains, insomnia, depression, sickness, or weight gain, stress left unmanaged impacts our body’s overall health.
Stress can manifest itself in a variety of different ways. For some people, stress shows up in the form of physical body pain. This includes headaches, upset stomach, tense muscles, chest pain, jaw pain, or body aches. For some it can be difficult to accurately assess how stressed you are, making it difficult to correlate stress to feelings of pain. In reality, physical pain as a response to stress is highly subconscious and biological. We tend to blame it on other things or attribute it to some mystery illness, but in some cases, it’s just stress showing up in your body physically.
In order to help the physical pain as a response to stress, work on relaxation exercises. This will not only help alleviate stress but will also help your muscles relax. Work on releasing the tension in your jaw, try meditating, removing some stressors in your life, and seeing a doctor if symptoms persist.
Lack of Sleep
Stress seems to be a snowball of problems for your body. Insomnia is just one side effect of stress and the toll it can take on your wellbeing. Not only does stress itself cause sleep deprivation, but it also causes other physical changes in your body that can harm your sleep as well. For instance, some types of severe acid reflux are not only something that can get worse with stress, it also affects sleep the worse it gets. So not only can stress itself cause insomnia, it can also aggravate existing conditions that can hurt sleep as well. The same principle applies to asthma, chronic pain, and hyperthyroidism — all of these conditions carry insomnia as a symptom and tend to get aggravated by stress.
Insomnia can be caused by a lot of things, but it’s a common problem for many. According to personal sleep consultant Sacha Stevens, a former insomniac, and current sleep consultant, many of our sleep problems can be linked to an unhealthy lifestyle — assuming your doctor hasn’t diagnosed your sleep problems as being tied to another condition. Even still, an unhealthy lifestyle can make the problem worse. To help sleep problems, visit the source and work to de-stress. Eat better, meditate, unplug, and sort out your sleep hygiene.
Many view stress as a strictly mental problem. It makes you feel anxious, irritable, tired, restless, overwhelmed, depressed, or unmotivated. However, mental wellness is just one piece of the puzzle in terms of stress and how it affects the body. It’s a domino effect and every symptom affects something else. For instance, stress can cause insomnia, and insomnia can wreak havoc on your mental wellness. Stress can make you feel anxious, which leaves your body feeling tense, which causes muscle pain and aches.
Stress’s direct effect on your mental wellness is problematic and can cause issues in all other areas of your life. It can cause problems with your personal relationships, workflow daily chores, and overall happiness. In order to ease the stress that causes mental health struggles, find your support system. Ask your family for help around the house, request a night alone, or vent to your spouse. Find ways to alleviate your stress and your mental health will follow suit.
Not only does stress cause physical pain, it also causes overall physical changes. Things like sex drive, weight, your immune system, blood sugar, blood pressure, and menstrual cycle can all change as a result of stress. All of these can go in one direction or another depending on each person, but the effects can be problematic for many. It’s an arbitrary question for most doctors to ask, “are you feeling stressed?” when something is wrong or different, but it’s a common reason for sudden physical changes in the body. In order to help those changes, it’s best to find your stressors and work to calm them. Take time away from social media, schedule time to do something you love, or try calming breathing exercises. You’d be surprised just how many things may go back to normal once your stress is managed.
Stress may be something that everyone feels at one point or another, but it doesn’t mean it’s something to take lightly. Stress is the kindling to many bigger problems in your body. Not only is it overwhelming, it can also cause physical pain, sleep problems, mental health issues, and physical changes. If you’re starting to feel aches, losing sleep, experiencing mental health problems, or physical changes in your body, don’t brush it off as getting older or experiencing a symptom of another health problem. Take a look at the stress in your life and whether or not it could be the culprit. Work on de-stressing your life and you may experience some relief in other areas of your health as well.
Chelsey Ranard is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She is passionate about addiction recovery advocacy, loves talk radio, and prefers her coffee iced. Follow her on Twitter!