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Stress in your Body

How Stress Can Man­i­fest as Phys­i­cal Symptoms



We have all expe­ri­enced moments of stress in our lives. When some­thing unex­pect­ed or alarm­ing hap­pens, a part of your brain, the hypo­thal­a­mus, sets off an inter­nal alarm. This alarm sig­nals your adren­al glands to release hor­mones, adren­a­line and cor­ti­sol, into your ner­vous sys­tem that cause your heart rate to increase, your mus­cles to tense and your breath to quick­en. This is referred to as your fight or flight response, and your body is ready to take action to pro­tect itself from harm.

Dur­ing peri­ods of stress, we often don’t asso­ciate changes in our health, includ­ing dif­fi­cul­ty sleep­ing or headaches, how­ev­er, stress can have a very real impact on the way your body func­tions and your over­all health.

Your Body’s Response to Stress

Cen­tral Ner­vous and Endocrine Systems 

  • Your sym­pa­thet­ic ner­vous sys­tem sig­nals your adren­al glands to release adren­a­line and cor­ti­sol, hor­mones that play a vital role in prepar­ing your body to respond in an emer­gency. Adren­a­line increas­es your heart rate, rais­es your blood pres­sure and boosts your ener­gy. Cor­ti­sol is respon­si­ble for increas­ing blood sug­ar, sup­port­ing your brain’s effi­cient use of glu­cose and stim­u­lat­ing tis­sue repair. Cor­ti­sol also sends sig­nals to the parts of your brain that con­trol your emo­tions includ­ing your mood, moti­va­tion and fear.

Mus­cu­lar System

  • Stress hor­mones cause mus­cles to tense and pre­pare to guard you from injury or harm.

Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Sys­tem

  • Stress caus­es your blood ves­sels to con­strict, send­ing more oxy­gen to your muscles.

Res­pi­ra­to­ry System 

  • Your breath­ing may accel­er­ate dur­ing stress­ful events, allow­ing your body to deliv­er oxy­gen-rich blood through­out your body quickly.

Endocrine Sys­tem

  • Your ener­gy lev­el increas­es as your liv­er responds by releas­ing more blood sug­ar into your bloodstream.

Phys­i­cal Symp­toms of Stress in Your Body

  • Once the stress­ful event or per­ceived threat has passed, your hor­mone lev­els will return to nor­mal. If chron­ic stres­sors are not addressed, your fight-or-flight response will remain acti­vat­ed. Unman­aged, pro­longed peri­ods of stress and increased lev­els of stress hor­mones with­in your body put you at an increased risk of sev­er­al health issues, includ­ing anx­i­ety and depression
  • Diges­tive issues, like acid reflux and/​or heartburn
  • Ele­vat­ed blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Heart dis­ease
  • Mus­cle ten­sion and/​or pain
  • Sleep issues, like insomnia
  • Weak­ened immune system

Tools to Help Man­age Every­day Stress

Learn­ing to man­age stress can have a last­ing impact on both your men­tal well-being and your phys­i­cal health. Lifestyle mod­i­fi­ca­tions and stress man­age­ment tools can help you to man­age your stress, such as:

  • Eat­ing a bal­anced diet
  • Get­ting ade­quate sleep
  • Reg­u­lar phys­i­cal activity
  • Relax­ation tech­niques, such as deep breath­ing, medi­a­tion or yoga
  • Tak­ing time for hob­bies, such as read­ing a book or lis­ten­ing to music

Stress is an inevitable part of life, how­ev­er, chron­ic stress is harm­ful to your health and men­tal well-being. If you have tak­en steps to lessen your stress and your symp­toms con­tin­ue, sched­ule an appoint­ment with your pri­ma­ry care physi­cian. For infor­ma­tion on our loca­tions and physi­cians, please vis­it our web­site at www​.dupagemed​ical​group​.com.

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