Any stressful situation can trigger a host of stress hormones that produce a series of physiological changes. For example, if your boss calls you into their office, you might notice that your heart starts pounding, your muscles tense up and your breathing quickens. This combination of reactions to stress is known as the “fight-or-flight” response.
The fight-or-flight response is a survival mechanism that allows us to react quickly to life-threatening situations. The instant hormonal and physiological changes help you fight off the threat and move to safety. However, sometimes the body overreacts to situations that aren’t dangerous, such as pressures at work or traffic jams.
Let’s take a closer look at the physical signs of stress and how to counter it. These are essential life skills, because without a way to calm yourself down, prolonged stress can lead to depression, anxiety, obesity and substance use.
Physical Symptoms of Stress (It’s Not All in the Head)
Many people assume that stress only affects the mind, but this is not true. There is a physical response as well. These symptoms don’t get as much attention, however, but they can wreak just as much havoc on the body as mental symptoms can the mind.
Here are the most common physical symptoms of stress, and its close cousin, anxiety.
This is a classic sign of anxiety that occurs when your adrenal glands start producing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The reaction is meant to pump more blood to your large muscles so that you can flee danger, but when there’s no danger, you just end up feeling nervous.
Short of breath
When your stress response is triggered, your breathing increases to provide you with more oxygen. And, if you breathe too quickly, you can actually make your physical symptoms worse. This is why experts focus on deep breathing exercises.
Another symptom of prolonged stress is chronic fatigue. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, when your stress hormones are amped up, they deplete your energy reserves. Second, having a lot of anxiety makes it more difficult to sleep.
Your muscles can feel stress, too. When you hold your body in a rigid position, it can lead to pain. Many people with anxiety report feeling tight in their neck, back or shoulders. You might also clench your jaw, which can lead to mouth pain and headaches.
Stress also hits the gastrointestinal system. You may notice that when you feel anxious, you experience diarrhea, stomach aches or constipation. A lot of experts refer to this as the gut-brain axis, a communication system between the brain and enteric nervous system that controls your digestion.
Work Through Stress with the Help of a Life Coach
These are some of the most common physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. If you’re someone who deals with a lot of stress, it’s important to speak to a professional. Your treatment plan is likely to include some type of medication, talk therapy and coping skills.
Another professional you may want to add to your team is a life coach. A life coach in Los Angeles can help you uncover the reasons for your stress. Book a life coaching session with Jack Rourke today. Jack does incredible work, helping clients take an objective look at themselves and develop the coping skills they need to succeed in life.