Effects of Stress on Physical and Mental Health

Stress is a normal part of everyday life. In fact, our bodies are designed to manage low levels of stress. However, the effects of stress on on physical and mental health can be detrimental — especially over prolonged periods of time.

The effects of stress on physical and mental health attack all systems in the body, including the:

  • Nervous System
  • Respiratory System 
  • Gastrointestinal System
  • Musculoskeletal System
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Reproductive System
  • Endocrine System
  • Immune System

Nervous System

The nervous system is what triggers the “flight or fight” response when stressed. We either deal with the stressful situation, or we flee from it. The nervous system continues to divert energy to this response when we are exposed to constant stress, taking away energy from other systems and leaving those weakened. 

Respiratory System

Elevated stress levels can trigger panic attacks, which can result in shortness of breath and difficulties breathing. If someone already suffers from a chronic respiratory condition, such as asthma, their condition can worsen and be triggered. In rare cases, someone could even suffocate because the airway passages constrict when panicked and stressed. 

Gastrointestinal System

Excessive stress affects the gastrointestinal system by causing changes in the healthy gut bacteria, which is used to keep us “regular.” You may notice your stomach always feels like it is in knots. You might notice strange gurgling sounds coming from your stomach even when you are not hungry.

Stomach cramps, heartburn, and acid indigestion can also be present. Furthermore, you may experience strange gurgling sounds, bloating, infrequent bowel movements, increased flatulence, cramping, and diarrhea in the intestines. 

Musculoskeletal System

The muscles tighten up and become tense when under stress. When faced with chronic stress, the muscles never relax and loosen up. So, back pain, neck pain, headaches, and migraines, are all common problems from elevated stress levels. 

Cardiovascular System

During periods of stress, the heart rate increases and causes an increase in the release of cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline – all hormones used to combat the stressful situation. As the heart rate increases, so does the blood pressure.

Repeated and continued elevated levels of stress can increase the risks of high blood pressure (hypertension), heart attack, and stroke. Additionally, the hormones used to combat stress are depleted, leaving other systems in the body more vulnerable to infection. 

Reproductive System

Both the male and female reproductive systems can experience the effects of ongoing stress. In men, they will notice a decrease in sexual desire and performance. Their sperm counts also decline. 

In women, their menstrual cycles can become more intense, irregular, or absent. Women, too, also experience a decrease in sexual desire. The release of eggs can also decline. When a woman is pregnant, the constant stress can lead to premature delivery and miscarriages. 

Endocrine System 

The endocrine system initiates the release of a series of hormones when we are under stress. This system involves the adrenal glands, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus. It is also responsible for the production of cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline hormones. 

These hormones help increase energy to deal with stressful events. However, when the stress is ongoing, the hormones are being released as fast as they can be replaced. As a result, the effects of stress on physical and mental health can start to manifest, such as:

  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Illnesses and Infections

Immune System 

The immune system helps the body fight off infectious diseases, bacterial infections, viruses, and stimulates repairs of the body when injured. However, the immune response declines from prolonged periods of chronic stress as hormones and chemicals used to fight off infections and heal the body are not being produced. 

Instead, the body is focusing on producing hormones and chemicals to fight off the stress. This is why people who are under constant stress are more prone to getting colds, the flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, and other illnesses much easier. Additionally, once they get sick, it can take weeks or even months for them to recover from the illness.  

Fighting the Effects of Stress on Physical and Mental Health

There are several methods and therapeutic treatment options to help fight the effects of stress on physical and mental health, including:

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes three to five times a week. 
  • Learning meditation and deep breathing techniques.
  • Learning how to do yoga.
  • Sticking to a set bedtime to allow for sufficient sleep.
  • Receiving massage therapy to alleviate muscle tension. 
  • Attending weekly counseling sessions with a therapist to help identify sources of stress and develop effective coping mechanisms to alleviate the stress. 

Mental Health Treatment in Southern California

Neuro Wellness Spa in Southern California provides assistance in helping you alleviate the effects of stress on your physical and mental health. We can create a custom-tailored treatment plan to better enable you to reduce stress, including counseling sessions, IV nutrient therapy, and photobiomodulation therapy.  

For further information and to learn more about our stress management therapies and treatments, or to schedule a consultation appointment, please feel free to contact us today!

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