What Can Extreme Stress Do to Your Body?

Stress emanates from your body’s reaction to real and perceived harmful situations. When you sense danger, the body enables you to react and get away from harm’s way. This reaction is referred to as the stress response or “fight or flight” response. During the stress response, the blood pressure rises, muscles tighten, breathing quickens, and heart rate increases. This is how you get ready to protect yourself.

Beneficial Stress (Eustress)

It’s important to note that stress is not inherently bad. Small amounts of stress can prevent you from being hurt and enable you to accomplish complex tasks. For instance, stress that enables you to swerve your vehicle to avoid hitting an erratic driver is beneficial stress. So in that regard, stress is helpful. However, while the human body can handle small stress levels, long-term stress and chronic stress can be harmful.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress can impact all facets of life, including physical health, emotions, behaviours, and thinking ability. How people handle stress varies, and thus stress symptoms will vary for different individuals. Moreover, the signs of stress can be indistinguishable and similar to those resulting from medical conditions. The symptoms of stress include:

Physical Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Low energy
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heartbeat and chest pain
  • Frequent infections and colds
  • Reduced sexual ability or desire
  • Shaking and nervousness, sweaty or cold feet and hands

Emotional Symptoms

  • Being moody, frustrated, easily agitated
  • Feeling overwhelmed, feeling like you need to have more control or are losing control
  • Facing difficulty calming your mind
  • Having low self-esteem and feeling lonely, depressed, and worthless

Behavioural Symptoms

  • Increased use of drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes
  • Exhibiting nervous behaviours, like pacing, fidgeting, and nail-biting
  • Changes in appetite (eating too much or not eating at all)

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Poor judgment
  • Constant worrying
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Being pessimistic
  • Inability to focus

Effects of Long-term Stress

While you shouldn’t necessarily worry about small amounts of stress, prolonged stress can cause or worsen many health problems, including:

  • Cardiovascular diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, heart attacks, and abnormal heart rhythms
  • Mental health issues including anxiety, personality disorders, and depression
  • Hair and skin problems, like permanent hair loss, eczema, psoriasis, and acne
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as irritable colon, GERD, ulcerative colitis, and gastritis

How to Manage Stress

If you have physical and or emotional symptoms of chronic stress, you should strive to manage them to prevent health problems. Here are some healthy and sustainable stress management strategies you should explore:

  • Get regular physical activity
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, massage, deep breathing
  • Maintain your sense of humor
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Engage in your hobbies, like listening to music and reading

Ideally, you should rely on active ways of managing stress. Trying to manage stress through passive activities such as surfing the internet, playing video games, and watching television, may feel relaxing in the short term but can increase your stress level in the long term. You should also eat a balanced and healthy diet, get enough sleep, and avoid excess alcohol and caffeine. These approaches have immense benefits for mental and physical health and are essential elements of a healthy lifestyle.

How Genesis Can Help

At Genesis Performance, we can help you manage the stressors and challenges that affect you daily as well as help find strategies that’ll improve your mental and physical wellbeing.   Contact us today to get started.

Jenna Dillon

Founder & CEO

Jenna is an Executive Coach committed to working with high performing individuals and companies who are up to exploring what they’re capable of achieving within their lives, careers, company culture and leadership. She is passionate about empowering her clients - standing with them and for them - so they have the tools to create extraordinary results.