What Really Happens to Your Body When You’re Stressed

When the external demands leave you stressed to the max, internal chaos reigns.

stress anxietyPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

The physical effects of stress can be severe

You may develop tension headaches or find that stress makes it hard to sleep (and that lack of sleep can also lead to headaches.) Make sure you know exactly how much headache medication to take.

Your heart and lungs

In moments of stress, you’ll notice your heart pounding faster and your breath getting quick and shallow. At the same time, your blood vessels tighten, raising blood pressure. When stress is chronic, that increased heart rate and high blood pressure can damage arteries over time.

Your immune system

Research suggests that stress can impact the immune system, affecting everything from your likelihood of getting a cold sore to your ability to build resistance to the flu when you get the flu shot.

Your muscles

You might notice your muscles tighten during times of stress, particularly in your shoulders, back, face and jaw.

Your digestion

Stress can cause nausea, butterflies or stomach aches, plus it can stall digestion as your body diverts energy elsewhere to help your body respond with “fight or flight” in the face of a perceived threat.

Your reproductive system

You might miss periods or have your menstrual cycles thrown off when you’re stressed. It can also diminish your sex drive. (Here are 8 more symptoms that are linked to stress.)

Try these 3 stress-busters to mitigate the physical effects of stress


  • When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, chemicals in the brain that can elevate your mood. So, instead of stressing it out, sweat it out!


  • Whether it’s yoga or chi meditation, studies have shown that decluttering the mind can alleviate stress. But in order to fully reap meditation’s amazing health benefits, make sure you’re not making these common mistakes.

Take up a hobby

  • Find something that you enjoy, like painting or reading, and engross yourself in it. That’s mindfulness.

Looking to kick-off this year with a bang? Don’t forget to check out our top wellness ideas.

Originally Published in Best Health Canada