We all experience stress — in response to our environment (school, work, home), our relationships, the events happening in our lives, and our thoughts and worries about life’s demands. Stress is a normal human reaction to changes that require us to adjust or respond. When we feel stress, our bodies react through physical, cognitive, and emotional responses.
At Endeavor Psychology, we use a variety of proven therapeutic approaches to help clients reduce and manage stress. Because stress can cause or contribute to so many physical and mental health conditions, our focus in on helping clients learn tools that they can use to identify and combat stress triggers throughout their lives.
What are the effects of stress and how can it impact my health?
In some ways, stress can be protective – it helps us stay “on guard” and react in the face of danger or difficulty. But persistent stress – stress experienced over a long period of time without relief — can become counterproductive. Repeated acute stress and chronic stress can both negatively impact our physical and emotional wellbeing. When stress becomes ‘distress’ – a negative stress response – it can trigger or exacerbate physical problems including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, tightness or pain in the chest, fatigue and sleeping difficulties.
Chronic (persistent) stress can also lead to more serious health problems if not addressed. These include:
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heartburn, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome
- Gastrointestinal problems — cramps, constipation, and diarrhea
- Weight gain or loss
- Changes in sex drive
- Fertility problems
- Asthma or arthritis flare-ups
- Skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis
Chronic stress triggers health problems by causing physiological responses in a number of body systems including:
- Musculoskeletal System – the muscular responses to stress can lead to headaches, migraines, and chronic pain.
- Respiratory System – stress can intensify breathing difficulties, particularly among people with asthma, lung disease, emphysema or other respiratory conditions; it can also cause hyperventilation, and sometimes trigger panic attacks.
- Cardiovascular System – chronic (long-term) stress, can cause exaggerated variations in heart rate for a prolonged period of time, and elevate stress hormones and blood pressure, which can lead to long-term problems for heart and blood vessels including hypertension, heart attack and stroke.
- Endocrine System – “stress hormones” released in response to stressors may contribute to liver dysfunction and diabetes.
- Gastrointestinal System – stress can increase the severity of heartburn and acid reflux, stomach pain, and can cause diarrhea, constipation or even vomiting.
- Nervous System – stress sends the nervous system into a “fight or flight” response – shifting all of its resources to fend the body from a perceived “threat” or stressor. When in this state, the nervous system triggers the body to release stress hormones that result in rapid heart beat and breathing, blood vessel dilation, changes in digestive processes and blood sugar levels. Over time, stress – and the responses triggered by the nervous system — can strain the body in many ways.
- Male Reproductive System – stress causes the body to release excessive amounts of a hormone called cortisol, which can affect normal functioning of the male reproductive system. Over time, chronic stress can impact testosterone and sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction and even impotence.
- Female Reproductive System – among women, stress can affect menstruation, worsen the symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome and menopause, and negatively impact sexual desire and drive.
How can Endeavor Psychology help me manage my stress?
At Endeavor Psychology, we understand that multitude of triggers can cause stress, which can take a toll on your mental and physical health, relationships, studies, work and overall wellbeing. Our practice draws heavily on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to develop stress management plans that are tailored to our clients’ stress triggers, experiences, thoughts and beliefs and designed to help clients effectively manage stress and achieve their psychological and physical health goals.
If you or someone you care about needs help managing stress, please contact us for a consultation.