Why does too much stress have negative effects on our mind and body?

Written by on August 24, 2019

Why does too much stress have negative effects on our mind and body?

It isn’t a lie that people are continuously exposed to stressful situations.  Stress can be physical or mental, short-term or long-term, and regular or chronic. You have perhaps heard all about how bad stress is for your mind and body. It can easily lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, chest pain and upset stomach. It could cause mood issues such as anxiety or sadness. It can even lead to behavioral problems such as anger or overeating.

Do you know that stress can have a serious impact on your brain and body? During stress, your brain goes through a series of chemical reactions (not all chemical reactions in the brain are bad) which are designed to mobilize and protect it from potential threats and take important decisions during Fight or Flight situations. Sometimes, stress can help sharpen the mind, which increases our ability to remember details about what is happening. Too much stress can cause negative effects on the body and brain. Researchers have found that stress can produce a wide range of negative effects on the brain cells, which contributes to mental illness and even shrinkage of the volume of the brain.

Effect of Stress on the Brain

When we face stress, the amygdala in our brain activates our central stress response system, which is known as the HPA (Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical) axis. This response circuit includes the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal cortex. During stress, your cortisol hormone is regulated, which increases glucose level, heart rate and blood flow in the arms and legs muscles. When stress becomes chronic, this hormonal system is amped up all the time. The same hormones which are important for the fight-or-flight response can lead to stomach issues, trouble sleeping, and a weakened immune system. Stress affects your memory and makes you forget minor things like your car keys or office files. Chronic stress can even kill brain cells and cause shrinkage in the size of the brain.

Effect of Stress on the Body

Stress affects your musculoskeletal system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, Endocrine system, and reproductive system. When our body is stressed, muscles tense up. Muscle tension is a reflex reaction to stress, which is our body’s way of guarding itself against pain and injury. The best example of muscle tension during stress is migraine headache, which is caused by muscle tension in shoulders, neck and head. Our respiratory system supplies oxygen to cells. Stress can cause shortness of breath and rapid breathing. Sometimes, acute stress can lead to severe respiratory problems like asthma or bronchitis. Stress has a negative effect on our heart. It can cause an increase in heart rate and stronger muscles contractions in the heart, leading to heart issues. Long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, stroke and heart attack.

It is important to manage your stress if you want to live a healthy life. Maintain a healthy social support network, engage in regular physical exercise, consult your GP and get an adequate amount of sleep. It is vital to take time for selfcare as well as selflove and practice mindfulness with breathing techniques on a regular basis. Learn more about Self-care coaching & holistic healing therapies.