What Stress Does to Your Body


Stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can help push you to perform better and react more quickly – important factors if you’re in a demanding situation. But sustained stress can also be exhausting and debilitating. If you’re feeling stressed on an every day basis, you could find that it is having an impact on your body. Here’s how to fix it!

Stress and anxiety can trigger tension headaches and migraines. Tension headaches are usually caused by a tightening of muscles in your upper back, neck and head. When these muscles get tight, it produces a band-like pain around your head.

What you can do

  • QUICK RELIEF If the headache has already set in, pain relief will help ease your discomfort.  An ibuprofen-based pain killer such as Nurofen will help with tension headache as it reduces inflammation to the tightened muscles, as well as providing pain relief.
  • EASE THE TENSION Relaxing the muscles of your neck and shoulders will help ease your pain. Try this quick technique: Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and tense the affected area as tight as you can. Hold for five seconds, then slowly release the tension as you breathe out through your nose. Repeat as many times as you like.
  • PRACTICE RELAXING In the long term, you can protect yourself against headaches by learning some relaxation skills. Meditation and yoga can teach you how to stop, focus and calm your mind so that stress doesn’t get out of control.

Our brains interact with our bellies through the enteric nervous system, which regulates digestion. This is what the Harvard Medical School describes as the “brain-gut” axis. When the brain is feeling stressed, it tends to slow down or disrupt the digestive process, causing tummy upsets. 

What you can do

  • QUICK RELIEF If your stomach is upset it could be a case of indigestion. An appropriate medication, like Gaviscon Dual Action, can give you relief within minutes.
  • LEARN TO BE POSITIVE The Harvard Medical School says that cognitive behavioural therapy, which helps challenge unhelpful thoughts, can improve stress-related tummy troubles. 

Fatigue and muscle pain
People who are chronically stressed or anxious are constantly on edge. The continual release of stress-related adrenaline exhausts the body, leading to fatigue. Fatigue can lead to loss of muscle tone, leaving you much more vulnerable to aches and pains. 

What you can do

  • QUICK RELIEF If you are feeling pain in your muscles, take an ibuprofen-based medication like Nurofen, which has both an anti-inflammatory and a pain relief action.
  • EXERCISE REGULARLY Being sedentary is a cause of fatigue, so exercise is a great way to boost your energy levels and ease minor muscle pain. Aim for 30 minutes a day.
  • WATCH WHAT YOU EAT Food is your fuel and a balanced, nutritious diet will lots of fruit, vegetables, lean meat and wholegrain will maximise energy.
  • SLEEP SOUNDLY A good sleep helps combat fatigue. Stick to regular bedtimes and make sure you only use your bed for sleep – don’t work, use the computer or watch TV in bed.

High blood pressure
When the blood pressure on your arteries is elevated and your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body, you end up with high blood pressure. There are a number of things that can cause your blood pressure to increase, including age, ethnicity, gender, diet – and stress.

What you can do

  • HAVE A CHECK-UP See your GP who may advise you on lifestyle changes or medication.
  • GET HEALTHY Being overweight forces your heart to work harder in order to pump blood around your body, leading to increased blood pressure. Losing those extra kilos with a healthier diet and increased physical activity will have benefits.
  • QUIT NOW If you smoke and have high blood pressure, your risk of heart disease increases as both cause your arteries to narrow.

This article originally appeared at Live Well online.