The Physiological Symptoms of Stress: Sustained Anxiety and Physical Health
Anxiety is an incredibly complex emotion that can have a range of impacts on our physical health. It is a natural emotional response to stress and can be helpful in some situations. It is characterized by feelings of worry, nervousness, and unease and it is often accompanied by physical symptoms, including a racing heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, or headaches.
Stress is a natural response to events or situations that make you feel threatened or anxious. It can be helpful in certain situations, like when you need to focus or perform well. But when stress is chronic, it can wear on your body and affect your physical health. Physical symptoms of stress can include: Headache, backache, muscle tension or pain, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking, trembling, and insomnia.
Anxiety is one of the leading psychological issues in the world. It is estimated that over 18% of people will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. That is a lot of people! Chronic anxiety can have a significant impact on physical health. For most people, anxiety is a temporary state that goes away once the cause of the stress has been resolved. However, for some people, anxiety can be chronic and debilitating.
This can lead to a number of physical health problems and symptoms as the body is constantly in a state of fight or flight. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety can lead to or exacerbate a variety of physical health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, gastrointestinal problems, reproductive problems, chest pain, breathing issues and shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and palpitations, weight gain or loss, headaches, muscle tension and chronic pain.
Stress and Illness
There is a well-established link between stress and physical illness. When we experience prolonged or excessive stress, our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode, releasing a flood of hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones help you to either confront or flee the stressful situation. They cause a number of physical changes that prepare your body to deal with the threat. The first sign of stress is an increase in heart rate. This typically happens when we are faced with a threat, or feel that we are under threat. That’s because our heart rate increases in response to the rise in adrenaline.
The good news is that there are ways to manage these symptoms, and reduce the impact that stress has on your life.
Here are 3 Ways of managing the physical symptoms of our anxiety:
- Reducing the time that we spend in negative states of mind. Begin to pay attention to your thoughts in the moment and notice when your thoughts shift towards the negative. Allow yourself to accept that a negative thought has entered your mind and then actively choose to think about something else. Utilize distraction techniques and grounding exercises to help in shifting your mind.
- Learning to control our thoughts. Visualization techniques can help us to keep our thoughts moving by allowing us to picture in our mind ways to watch our thoughts drift away, float away, or become smaller and smaller. We can also learn to control our thoughts by limiting the amount of time we spend ruminating over an idea and actively challenge ourselves to entertain a different thought altogether.
- Tapping into our emotional reserves and learning to let our feelings be what they are without taking them too seriously.
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