Stress doesn’t just affect your mind; it affects your body too. Recognising how stress manifests physically can help you know when to slow down.

Too much of anything can be bad

Stress is natural. It’s a defence mechanism that warns us about dangerous situations by causing a surge of hormones that triggers the fight-or-flight response. In small doses, your body’s stress response can be beneficial, keeping you alert, focused and ready to respond.

Stress starts to have a negative impact when it becomes a prolonged response and your body doesn’t have a chance to relax and reduce the levels of certain hormones in your system. So, instead of keeping you alert and ready, it begins to take a toll.

From your mind…

Prolonged stress manifests itself in many ways. It can make it difficult to concentrate or make decisions. It can leave you feeling overwhelmed with a strong sense of unease. You might find yourself feeling unusually irritable and fatigued, letting those bad habits get the better of you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there.

…to your body

Tense muscles. Persistent headaches. An upset stomach with no clear cause. The physical side of stress can affect every part of your body. With such a strong surge of hormones coursing through your body, it’s no wonder you’re left feeling so awful. Unfortunately, most people don’t recognise that stress is the cause of these symptoms.

What are the physical symptoms of stress?

The physical manifestations of stress can affect your entire body – head to toe. They include:

-   Persistent feelings of tiredness

-   Headaches or migraines

-   Upset stomach

-   Tense muscles – particularly shoulders

-   Chest pains

-   Feeling sick, dizzy, or fainting

-   Indigestion and heartburn

-   Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw

-   Difficulty falling asleep

What can you do about the physical side of stress?

The first step is recognising that you’re stressed. If you find yourself experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, even if there isn’t an obvious cause of stress, create some time for yourself to relax. You need it.

Prolonged stress can have a dramatically negative impact on your health now and in the future. It’s been linked to the six leading causes of death in the UK: cancer, heart disease, accidental injuries, lung disorders, liver disorders and suicide. This is why it’s so important to be aware of the many sides of stress.

Make relaxation part of your every day

There will be something that works for you. Whether it’s putting on your favourite music and dancing like no one is watching or sinking into a hot UNPLUG-infused bath and getting lost in a book. Find that something which helps you unwind and let go of whatever is creating these bodily discomforts.

You can also try reflecting on your day, looking for the triggers that lead to the blinding headaches and pinching shoulders. Learn to recognise stress in yourself and others. Let’s create a culture of stress reduction, not stress production.