Stress effects – the whole body suffers

We all have stressors of some sort in our lives and many more have been added during the last year and a half. According to the American Psychological Association, stress affects all systems of the body, including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous and reproductive systems. 

"Due to the physical effects on our bodies, it is important to manage stress," said Cheryl Laszynski, registered nurse health coach at the Center for Healthy Living (CHL) on the West Lafayette campus. "Stress symptoms can present in a variety of ways, including headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, muscle tension, pain or fatigue. It can cause both mental and physical exhaustion and also has been linked to leading causes of death due to heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, lung ailments and cancer."

Along with the American Psychological Association, mental health organizations view the effects of stress on the body as a main point of interest. Mental Health America’s (MHA) “How Stress Hurts” web page outlines the effects of stress on the body in an easy-to-understand format. In addition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides a “Managing Stress” resource, which details the following:

  • How Stress Affects You – both mentally and physically
  • When You Are Most Vulnerable to Stress
  • Ways to Reduce Stress

As others have shown, Mayo Clinic also reports that stress can affect your body, your thoughts/feelings/mood and your behavior. Common effects of stress according to Mayo Clinic include:

  • On your body – headache, muscle tension, chest pain, stomach upset, sleep problems
  • On your mood – anxiety, restlessness, lack of focus/motivation, feeling overwhelmed, sadness/depression
  • On your behavior – overeating/undereating, angry outbursts, drug/alcohol misuse, tobacco use, social withdrawal, less active

Tips to help manage stress

MHA offers 10 tools to help individuals manage stress and feel more hopeful; the “Ten Tools” web page offers links to each of the following tools with specific, easy-to-follow tips:

  • Connect with others
  • Stay positive
  • Get physically active
  • Help others
  • Get enough sleep
  • Create joy and satisfaction
  • Eat well
  • Take care of your spirit
  • Deal better with hard times
  • Get professional help if you need it

Laszynski also shared some tips to help manage stress. They include:

  • Take a 10-minute walk
  • Practice mindfulness. The Healthy Boiler Portal offers its “Mindful Minutes Series” as a quick, easy resource. Tools like these support the behavioral health pillar of the Healthy Boiler Program.
  • Write in a journal. “Journaling allows you a safe place to write your feelings out and in doing so can help you work through certain stressors simply by moving them from your mind to your journal and allowing yourself to process whatever the situation is that’s causing you stress at that moment,” Laszynski said.
  • Take a break. Find an activity that allows you time to not have to think about the stressors in your life, such as reading, watching a movie, exercising, etc.
  • Talk to someone. All benefits-eligible employees can schedule an appointment with a health coach or counselor at the CHL by calling 765-494-0111 or using the Center for Healthy Living portal.