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Future Health

How Stress Affects the Body

April 24, 2023 

Stress affects not only one part of your body, but all systems of the body. Typically, our bodies are built to handle stress in small increments. Here are the different ways that stress affects different systems of the body.

Musculoskeletal system: When you are stressed, your body tenses up until the stress passes. For those who deal with chronic stress, your body stays in this state of guardedness. If your body stays in this state for long periods of time, it may trigger reactions of the body or even stress-related disorders.

Respiratory system: This system is responsible for supplying oxygen to cells and removes carbon dioxide waste from the body. Your stress and strong emotions can become present with respiratory symptoms. An example would be, shortness of breath, and rapid breathing. For those who do not already have a respiratory problem, these are not typically a symptom, but those who do, tend to have respiratory symptoms.

Cardiovascular system: There are two elements that work together in this system; the heart and blood vessels. They coordinate in the body’s response to stress. Two different types of stress are acute and chronic. The body responds differently depending on the type of stress. With acute stress, it lasts for a short period of time, where your heart rate increases, and your adrenaline takes effect. Chronic stress, which usually lasts for longer periods of time, causes consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and elevated levels of stress hormones and blood pressure, which takes a toll on your body.

Endocrine system: This is where your stress hormones live. Your stress hormones help regulate your immune system and reduce inflammation. Though during stressful situations where injury might result in increased immune system activation, chronic stress has the opposite effect. Chronic stress can impair the communication between the immune system and the brain. This can cause future development of physical and mental health conditions.

Gastrointestinal system: This system and the brain are in constant communication. When stress affects this communication, it may trigger pain, bloating or gut discomfort. Your gut health can affect your overall health, your ability to think and affect emotions.

Nervous system: Here, is the hub of your physical stress response. This is where your fight or flight response comes from. If this system is constantly under stress, your body will feel drained. It causes wear and tear on your body as the physical reactions are nonstop.

How to manage stress:

  1. Make sure to maintain a healthy social support network

  2. Engage in regular physical exercise, at 30 minutes a day

  3. Get enough sleep!