How Does Stress Affect You Physically?

Let’s begin with the definition

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. We often refer to stress as a negative response, but stress is not always bad. When danger is sensed, which may be real or imagined, the body’s defenses moves to a higher gear in an automatic process as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response”.

Stress can be positive or negative based on the event and our response to it. Eustress or positive stress in small doses can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best and improve your performance. It helps you stay focused, energetic and alert. This response is limited to a short period.

Distress or negative stress maybe for a short or longer period. It causes concern or anxiety. It’s an unpleasant feeling which may cause a decrease in performance and lead to mental and physical problems.



Threats, fear, uncertainty, and cognitive dissonance can be the general causes of stress. The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors and they can be external or internal.

External stressors can be the life changes, relationship difficulties, children and family, financial problems, work or school, or being too busy. Internal stressors include pessimism, unrealistic expectations or perfectionism, lack of flexibility, all-or-nothing attitude, negative self-talk.

What causes stress depends on your perception of it. Something that’s stressful for you may not be stressful for the other person, they may even enjoy it. For example, some people find it stressful to get up on stage and perform while the others live for the spotlight.


Signs and Symptoms

Stress can affect you physically and emotionally in many ways. Some people are so used to a stressful life that they do not realize it and it starts to feel normal. They don’t notice how much it has affected them and how much it has taken from them. So, it is very important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress.

Some physical symptoms include aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, chest pain and rapid heart rate, nausea, loss of sex drive.

Some emotional symptoms include loneliness and isolation, anxiety and agitation, depression or unhappiness, moodiness, irritability or anger, feeling overwhelmed.

Some behavioural symptoms include eating more or less, sleeping too much or too little, using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax, nervous habits like nail biting, pacing.


Improve the ability to handle stress

Socialize and connect with people. Talking face-to-face with people, helps to relieve stress when you are feeling insecure or agitated. Spend time with people who make you feel good and loved.

Take time to relax. Yoga, meditation and deep breathing are relaxation techniques that activate the body’s relaxation response. When these techniques are implemented regularly, it can reduce the stress levels and bring out feelings of joy and serenity. It also helps you to stay calm under pressure.

Eat a healthy diet. The food you eat can improve or make you mood worse which can affect your ability to cope up with all the stress.

Exercise regularly.  It can get your mind off things that are stressful, distracting you from worries. Regular exercise can lift your mood allowing you to come out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress.

Get sufficient rest. Insufficient rest can increase stress by making your mind wonder in places it shouldn’t. Make sure you get enough rest to start the next day fresh and more productive.


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