Imagine that you have an important deadline coming up for work. You spend your days putting in all of your effort, but as the big day approaches you find yourself overwhelmed.
You know that you are stressed. You also begin to notice strange symptoms in your body. You have an uneasy feeling in your stomach. Your shoulders are tense and jaw is constantly tight.
Questions run through your mind: Could it be the stress? What does stress do your body? Will it ever go away?
It could definitely be the stress. Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Muscle Tension and Pain
- Chest Pain
- A Change in Sex Drive
- Upset Stomach
- Sleep Problems
Stress can cause a tension headache by tightening the muscles in the neck and scalp (1).
Stress causes muscles all over your body to tense. This especially affects the shoulder and jaw muscles and breathing and postural muscles (2). It is easy to see why people often feel sore and stiff when they are stressed out.
Every year, a large number of patients report chest pain that cannot be linked to heart disease or other illnesses. Researchers have found that stress often plays a significant role in their chest pain (3).
When people are stressed they tend to feel sleepy and have a difficult time with concentration (4).
Change in Sex Drive
Stress can cause changes in sex drive, even for people excellent relationships. This can manifest as low sex drive in both men and women, sexual aversion in women, vaginisimus in women, and premature ejaculation in men (5).
Stress can cause issues with your stomach. It can also exacerbate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia (6)
Stress has consistently disrupted sleep in experimental studies. Slow wave sleep, REM sleep, and sleep efficiency (SE) all decreased in these studies while awakening increased (7).
From the physical effects of alone, it is easy to see how stress can disrupt your life. If your are experiencing any
of these symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor first. Many of the symptoms of stress could also be a symptom of major health issue. For example, chest pain could be a sign of stress, but it could also be heart disease. Figuring out which one it is could save your life.
If your physical symptoms are caused by stress, I highly encourage you to take steps to overcome it. With hard work, you will eventually free yourself from these issues.
For some quick solutions that you can start doing everyday to relieve stress, be sure to check out my article about relieving stress at work.
This has some quick ten-minute exercises that you can easily do in your everyday life.
If you have any questions please leave a comment below. I would be happy to help!
(1) Consumer Reports (28 April 2016). “Tension Headache Treatment and Prevention”. Consumer Reports. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
(2) Westgaard, Rolf H. “Effects of Physical and Mental Stressors on Muscle Pain.” Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, vol. 25, 1999, pp. 19–24. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40967001
(3) Fagring, Annika Janson. “Stress can be the cause of unexplained chest pain.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 10 Feb. 2009. Web. 4 Aug. 2017. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/138503.php>
(4) Nordqvist, Christian. “Fatigue: Why Am I So Tired?.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 28 Sep. 2015. Web. 4 Aug. 2017. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248002.php>
(5) Bodenmann G, Ledermann T, Blattner D, Galluzzo C. Associations among everyday stress, critical life events, and sexual problems. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, July 2006.
(6) Bennett EJ, Tennant CC, Piesse C, et al. (1998) Level of chronic life stress predicts clinical outcome in irritable bowel syndrome. Gut 43:256–261
(7) Kim, Eui-Joong, and Joel E. Dimsdale. “The Effect of Psychosocial Stress on Sleep: A Review of Polysomnographic Evidence.” Behavioral sleep medicine5.4 (2007): 256–278. PMC. Web. 5 Aug. 2017.