It’s no secret that stress can wear you down. Almost every adult can confidently say they’re stressed, from pressure at work to constant busyness at home. While much of this tension is unavoidable due to the way the world works, it shouldn’t get to a degree that it’s harming your body. If your stress is overwhelming you to the point of affecting your physical health in the following ways, you should consider a lifestyle change to reduce tension in your life.
The first way stress can affect your body is through joint pain. The reason for this is two-fold: muscle tension and inflammation. When your body’s adrenal response kicks in as a response to an external stressor, one of the first things that happens is your muscles will tighten. You may not even realize it’s happening, but each muscle is prepared for the fight or flight response that comes with the additional adrenaline rush from stress. This increased tension can put extra pressure on your joints, causing anything from mild soreness to subluxation.
Second, stress increases the inflammatory response in your body. Your white blood cells are on high alert looking for foreign contaminants, and unfortunately, they begin to attack and localize in your joints sometimes. If you already have a condition like arthritis or an old joint injury, added stress can manifest through increased soreness. By reducing your stress levels, you can lower the inflammation rate in your body and help your joints return to a healthier state.
The second physical effect you might see from your stress is poor sleep. Just as with joint pain, this sleeplessness has two main causes. The first one stems from the hormones that circulate through your body as a result of the stress response. Epinephrine and cortisol are designed to keep your system sharp and alert. As such, they delay the release of melatonin and dopamine, which help you relax enough to fall asleep. This can lead to insomnia or poor-quality rest, leaving you feeling exhausted each morning.
The other half of the equation when it comes to sleeplessness is more of a mental one. When you’re stressed, it’s hard to think about anything that isn’t related to your problems. At bedtime when the world is quiet, it can seem like your mind refuses to calm down enough to let you rest. You may feel like your thoughts are racing or you simply can’t turn your brain off long enough to fall asleep. This overthinking can leave you with either sleepless nights or bad dreams that have you waking up exhausted. If your sleep is being disturbed because of your stress, it may be time to make a change.
Headaches and Muscle Tension
Third, stress can show physically through headaches and muscle tension. While it was briefly discussed as playing a part in joint pain, muscle tension as a result of stress can leave you with full-body issues. Many people carry muscle aches in their upper backs and necks, leaving large knots that cause pain in the head and torso. These knots can cause a limited range of motion, poor sleep, and tension headaches. While it’s possible to work these aches out through things like massage or exercise, the best way to handle them is by reducing stress to stop them at the source.
Along similar lines, you may experience headaches as a result of stress. The muscle tension in your neck and back can easily spread to your facial muscles, leaving you feeling like there’s a vice wrapped around your head. These tension headaches can be excruciating, leaving you feeling like there’s nothing that you can do to stop the pain. Rather than simply living with the constant agony of tension headaches, look for ways to limit your daily stress and stop them before they start.
To sum things up, stress doesn’t just affect your mind, it also can wreak havoc on your body. By making healthy lifestyle changes, you can reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.