All You Need to Know About Stress: What is it and How Does it Change Your Body?

Have you been feeling stressed or overwhelmed of late? Most of the time, these feelings are accompanied by physiologic changes, and you may fail to realize that stress causes not only emotional distress but also physical strain.

According to the World Health Organization, your body will react with stress whenever something requires your dire attention or needs to be tackled immediately. In this blog, we’ll look at how stress affects the entire body, from muscles to nerves, etc., and approaches you may adopt.

How Does it Affect Your Body?

Stress also referred to as tension, alters your body’s normal functionalities. Said changes include musculoskeletal, respiratory, metabolic, and more. Here’s a brief look at the physical strain caused by emotional tension.


Muscles naturally contract when under stress, resulting in restricted blood flow. When stressed, especially regularly, your musculoskeletal system may be permanently constrained, leading to damage over time.

Increased Muscle Tension

Stress-related muscle tension is almost a reflex response. The muscles tense up all at once in response to sudden onset stress and then relax once it has passed.

In the Cervical Region, it Can Lead to Headaches

We experience neck and scalp muscle contractions when stressed, anxious, or depressed. Such contractions consequently cause dreary, nagging headaches that frequently develop into full-blown migraines.

Posture Changes 

Stress alters your breathing patterns, which puts strain on your mid-back. Your shoulders hunch up, hurting your lower, upper, and middle back. Low back pain affects the muscles in the tailbone and lower back, which also affect posture and flexibility.

Woman sitting on a yoga mat while practicing meditation techniques for stress management.


The American Psychological Association claims that because stress and strong emotions can narrow the airway, they can result in respiratory symptoms like dyspnea and rapid breathing.

SOB (Shortness of Breath)

Stress both triggers and exacerbates shortness of breath. Some indications of tension include SOB, air hunger, and a feeling of suffocation.

Increased Breathing

You breathe more rapidly under stress to get oxygen-rich blood to your body more quickly. This can make breathing even more difficult if you already have asthma or emphysema.

Sudden Onset Asthma Attacks

Asthma may be triggered or exacerbated by stress-related changes in the body, such as rapid breathing. Research into how exactly stress and hormones affect asthma is still ongoing. 


Stress can trigger inflammation in the body, which is linked to cardio effects like high blood pressure and decreased levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

Increased Heart Rate

According to American Heart Association, your body releases adrenaline when you are under stress, which causes your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure to increase temporarily.


When under emotional turmoil, the body produces a surge of hormones. Blood vessels constrict, and the heart beats more rapidly due to these hormones. After a while, these events raise blood pressure.


Blood pressure, sugar, and fat levels rise as a result of emotional distress, making the heart work harder. These factors, in turn, may raise the possibility of clots developing, migrating to the heart or brain, and ultimately resulting in a stroke.

Heart Attack

According to studies, stress can result in heart attacks, sudden cardiac death, heart failure, or arrhythmias in people who may not be aware that they have cardiovascular problems.


Endocrine disorders like Graves’ disease, gonadal dysfunction, psychosexual dwarfism, and obesity can be brought on by stress responses. Additionally, tension can alter the prognosis of patients with various endocrine conditions, including thyroid storm and the precipitation of adrenal crises.

Cortisol Spike

After releasing “fight or flight” hormones like adrenaline during stressful times, your body can also release cortisol to keep you on high alert.

Hormone Imbalances 

Cortisol and adrenaline levels can stay high during prolonged emotional distress. Particularly for women, this can lead to a hormonal imbalance and significantly impact health.

Metabolic Disorders

Chronic stress impacts eating habits, encourages obesity, and is thought to increase the risk of a number of metabolic diseases, such as Type-2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases.

Gastrointestinal (GI)

The body has a tougher time recovering if the stress response is activated too frequently. This slows down digestion and may upset the stomach. Furthermore, it may lead to ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome.


Heightened tension causes the stomach to transmit signals related to the flight or fight response. These signals change how the stomach and gut break down and process food, resulting in nausea or vomiting.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS may have stress as a risk factor and potential cause. A 2014 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that 40% and 60% of people with IBS also experience stress and vice versa.


Long-term emotional tension keeps your body in “Fight or Flight” mode, which compromises your digestive system and increases the likelihood that you will experience digestive upset symptoms like bloating.

Poor Eating Habits

Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, can increase appetite and cause people to overeat.

Seniors exploring nature during an outdoor hike - stress management techniques.

Stress Management – What Can You Do?

If you’ve experienced symptoms associated with stress and emotional hardships, don’t panic. There are remedies, from physical therapy to meditation, etc., that you could employ to help you better cope with these effects and live and more fulfilling life. Here’s what you can do:


People who participate in hobbies are less likely to experience stress, depression, and low mood. Engaging in outdoor activities, e.g. sports, can increase your happiness and relaxation.


Meditation results in a calm mind and a deep state of relaxation. You can refocus your attention through meditation and stop the constant stream of dysfunctional thoughts that might be stressing you out.


By breaking the cycle, mindfulness creates room for responding rather than reacting. The popularity of mindfulness has been boosted by a growing body of research demonstrating that it lowers stress and anxiety, enhances attention and memory, and fosters self-regulation and empathy.


Unfortunately, there is no specific drug that can relieve this condition. But some medications can help control or lessen some stress-related symptoms. For instance, if you’re having trouble falling asleep, your doctor might suggest sleeping pills or mild tranquilizers.

Group Class/Outreach

The physical effects of stress are lessened with social support as it lowers blood pressure, according to a 2014 study by the University of Utah. Research has also shown that social support can lower heart rates and lower levels of cortisol.

Getting Into Nature

Being in nature or even just watching nature-related scenes makes you feel better and less stressed, angry, or afraid. Exploring nature improves your physical and emotional well-being as well.

Reach Out for More Info on Stress Management 

In case you feel the above remedies are insufficient for your struggles, reach out to us and get the help and support you need. Please send an email to or alternatively call us at 570-208-2787.