Physical Symptoms of Stress and How to Address Them
From our April Newsletter
By Stephanie Scherle
April is Stress Awareness Month and for this reason, we have chosen to make the physical symptoms of stress the focus of this month's newsletter.
Stress is a normal reaction to the difficulties of life, but prolonged stress can cause a number of physiological symptoms that are harmful to our health. Headaches, tense muscles, fatigue, and trouble sleeping are a few examples of these symptoms. This blog article will examine the physiological effects of stress on the body and explain how to recognize and address them.
Stress triggers the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare the body for fight-or-flight responses. These hormones help us react to perceived dangers by speeding up the heartbeat, raising blood pressure, and diverting blood flow from non-essential organs to muscles. But, long-term high levels of these hormones brought on by chronic stress can have detrimental impacts on our physical and mental health. For instance, increased cortisol levels have been associated with diabetes, hypertension, and obesity (Epel et al., 2000).
It can be difficult to recognise stress symptoms as some of them may be subtle or easy to confuse for those of other conditions. Stress symptoms include difficulties sleeping, frequent headaches, stomach issues, and muscle strain. In order to reduce your stress levels, it's crucial to pay attention to your body and be aware of these symptoms.
Several things can be done to reduce the physiological effects of stress. Exercise has been demonstrated to be helpful in lowering stress because it boosts the creation of neurotransmitters like endorphins and other feel-good chemicals (Hassmen et al., 2000). Deep breathing and meditation are two mindfulness techniques that can be beneficial for lowering stress and enhancing general wellbeing (Keng et al., 2011). You can handle stress more successfully by incorporating enjoyable things into your schedule, reaching out for social support, and creating realistic goals (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).
Exercises to Reduce Physical Stress Symptoms
Regular practice of this exercise increases mindfulness and helps your mind and body feel more connected.
Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, hold for a moment, and then slowly exhale through your mouth.
Focus on your breath as you continue to inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. If your mind starts to wander, simply bring your attention back to your breath.
As you continue to breathe, try to relax your body and release any tension that you may be holding. Start with your toes and work your way up to your head, consciously releasing any tightness or discomfort as you go.
Visualize a peaceful scene or image that brings you comfort and relaxation. This could be a serene beach, a tranquil forest, or any other place that helps you feel calm and centered.
Spend a few minutes simply focusing on your breath and visualizing your peaceful scene. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to your breath and your visualization.
When you are ready to finish, take a deep breath in and slowly exhale. Open your eyes and take a moment to notice how you feel.
Regular practice of this or other mindfulness exercises can help reduce stress and promote overall well-being.
You might be thinking to yourself: "But I'm so stressed that I cannot sit still and focus on my breathing because my mind is racing!" Not to worry - the next exercise is more active.
This yoga exercise is for those who struggle to focus on traditional mindfulness-based exercises because their mind keeps wandering to their to-do lists.
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Take a deep breath in through your nose and raise your arms above your head.
As you exhale through your mouth, slowly lower your arms to your sides.
Repeat this breathing and arm movement several times, allowing yourself to release any tension as you exhale.
Next, shake out your arms and legs to loosen up any remaining tension.
Finally, take a few deep breaths and focus on the feeling of your breath moving in and out of your body. Try to let go of any thoughts or distractions and simply be present in the moment.
Those who have trouble concentrating with conventional meditation approaches may find benefit from this activity, which mixes deep breathing with physical movement. It is a practical approach to relieve tension and promote relaxation throughout the day because it can be done anywhere and at any time.
Alternatively, you could always search for a guided meditation, yoga, or pilates session on Youtube or Spotify.
Would you like to support your workforce with their stress?
Resilient Workforce specialises in improving employee mental health and resilience and uses an evidence-based approach to improve your employees' wellbeing.
We can help you in a number of ways depending on your organisational needs, size, budget and timeline.
Contact us at email@example.com.
Epel, E. S., McEwen, B., Seeman, T., Matthews, K., Castellazzo, G., Brownell, K. D., ... & Ickovics, J. R. (2000). Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosomatic medicine, 62(5), 623-632.
Hassmen, P., Koivula, N., & Uutela, A. (2000). Physical exercise and psychological well-being: a population study in Finland. Preventive Medicine, 30(1), 17-25.
Keng, S. L., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(6), 1041-1056.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. Springer Publishing Company.