Stress Symptoms: Effects on Your Body and Behavior
Symptoms of stress may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent insomnia or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the culprit.
Common Effects of Stress
Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Common Effects of Stress on Your Body
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Stomach upset
- Sleep problems
Common Effects of Stress on Your Mood
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability or anger
- Sadness or depression
Common effects of stress on your behavior
- Overeating or under-eating
- Anger outbursts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Tobacco use
- Social withdrawal
- Exercising less often
Act to manage stress
If you have stress symptoms, taking steps to manage your stress can have numerous health benefits. Explore stress management strategies, such as:
- Regular physical activity
- Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or getting a massage
- Keeping a sense of humor
- Socializing with family and friends
- Setting aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music
Aim to find active ways to manage your stress. Inactive ways you may use to manage stress — such as watching television, surfing the Internet or playing video games — may seem relaxing, but they may increase your stress over the long term.
When to seek help
If you’re not sure if stress is the cause or if you’ve taken steps to control your stress but your symptoms continue, see your doctor. Your doctor may want to check for other potential causes. Or, consider seeing a professional counselor or therapist who can help you identify sources of your stress and learn new coping tools.
Also, if you have chest pain, especially if it occurs during physical activity or is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, nausea, or pain radiating into your shoulder and arm, get emergency help immediately. These may be warning signs of a heart attack and not simply stress symptoms.
Some stress can be beneficial some of the time. Stress produces a boost that provides the drive and energy to help people get through situations like work deadlines or exams. Stress occurs when you perceive demands — such as work, school or relationships — exceed your ability to cope. An extreme amount of stress can have health consequences, affecting the immune, cardiovascular and neuroendocrine and central nervous systems. Without proper stress management stress can also take a severe emotional toll.
Chronic stress can result in serious health conditions including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system if no stress management is done. Stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity, as research has shown.
We help you by developing positive, healthy ways to manage stress as it occurs. Many of these negative health consequences can be reduced, or eliminated with stress management techniques that work for you and your individual needs.