10 Physical symptoms of stress you need to be aware of
Having previously discussed the behavioural and psychological symptoms of stress; this post focuses on the physical symptoms of stress. The physical symptoms of stress are more visible to the human eye than the psychological or emotional symptoms. Therefore, they may provide the first opportunity to diagnose stress and make an intervention. The following are some of the most common physical symptoms of stress.
10 Physical symptoms of stress
1. Lowered immune system efficiency
Long-term exposure to stress results in increased cortisol levels. In a short-term, stressful situation, cortisol can be beneficial. However, long-term exposure to cortisol can have many negative effects, in particular lowering the efficiency of the immune system, leaving us more susceptible to illness and infection.
2. Increased blood pressure
From an evolutionary perspective, during stressful situations, humans needed to either fight or flee. To perform either of these functions requires an increase in blood pressure. In modern times, we are rarely exposed to the same levels of physical threat. We rarely need to either fight or flee, however our body responds the same way to modern stressors as it did in the past. While short, infrequent periods of high blood pressure might not be too harmful, continuously high blood pressure is dangerous to our health.
3. High cholesterol
Stressful situations have been shown to increase deposits of cholesterol in our arteries. This increases our likelihood of experiencing heart disease or a stroke. High blood pressure and high cholesterol together is a recipe for disaster.
4. Chronic fatigue
The body’s energy levels work best in cycles. With practice and training we can push our bodies to intense levels of exertion. These periods of exertion must be followed by periods of quality rest to allow the body to recover and grow.
Stressful tasks require us to work beyond a point at which we feel that we can cope. In an attempt to cope, we often increase our working hours and reduce our break times. This is done at the expense of family, social and leisure time. Even when not at work, we might find it hard to switch off. Prolonged exposure to stressful work can lead to chronic fatigue whereby we become both physically and mentally exhausted.
5. More frequent colds
With the lowered efficiency of the immune system leaving us more susceptible to illness and infection, our bodies are unable to fight off every bug or cold that we are exposed to. Colds are one of the more common of the physical symptoms of stress.
6. Sleep shortage
As the stress builds, so too do anxiety levels. The level and frequency of anxiety builds to the extent that it becomes difficult to sleep at night.
Stress brings an increase in tension and a reduction in our opportunities to relax. This is an effective recipe for headaches.
8. Weight problems
A common response to stress is to comfort eat which in turn leads to weight gain which puts extra pressure on the heart and internal organs.
9. Cancer and other serious illnesses
As said, long term exposure to high cortisol levels can suppress the immune system and reduce the body’s ability to fight off infection. This can lead to the development of some serious illnesses.
It has long been known that stress can result in ulcers and aggravate existing ulcers.
If you feel that you may be experiencing stress, check out Stress Free Living.
Stressed employees may be experiencing behavioural, psychological, emotional and or physical symptoms of stress. It may be possible for them to hide or modify their behaviour. Emotions and psychology are easier to hide as they are not easily observed without the individual sharing their thoughts or feelings. The physical symptoms of stress are not so easy to hide though. If someone is fatigued or physically unwell it is very difficult to hide it for any sustained period. By making yourself aware of the physical symptoms of stress you are more likely to observe when you or colleagues are experiencing stress and an effective intervention can be sought.