The Effects of Stress on Physical and Mental Health
By Andrew Parker - December 1, 2021

Stress is something all of us have experienced in varying degrees. Stress can come about by a non-stop lifestyle along with an inconsistent sleep schedule and other stressful situations. According to Ritika Aggarwal Mehta, a consultant psychologist at Jaslok Hospital and Research Center, “Stress is a response to a threat in any given situation. In other words, it triggers your body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ response. This stress response helps protect the body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly to the situation. However, when this stress response fires continuously and stress levels remain elevated over a long period of time, then this chronic stress can put your physical and mental wellbeing at risk.” Experts reveal the most common side effects that stress can have on us physically as well as mentally.

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When stressed, people usually breathe faster than normal in order to provide oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. For some, this feeling is a bit more intense that comes with a feeling of something heavy on their chest, and in some cases, a problem breathing. This can raise anxiety and panic levels. In addition to affecting the respiratory system, stress also has an effect on the cardiovascular system. Stress makes your heart pump blood much faster and more oxygen is then sent to your muscles which gives you that “fight-or-flight” response feeling. While more oxygen being sent to your muscles sounds like a good thing, it can also increase your blood pressure. Those that have chronic stress are at risk of having elevated blood pressure, stroke, or even a heart attack.

Stress also has an effect on the digestive tract since stress can activate acid reflux in the body, along with ulcers, stomach aches, cramps, bloating, and constipation. Stress can also decrease our body’s ability to fight off disease, thereby making us more susceptible to infection and numerous illnesses. In terms of mental health effects of stress, it can cause disruption in going to sleep as well as staying asleep and can increase or decrease appetite. Mehta explained, “It is, therefore, extremely important to deal with stress as soon as possible, and not allow it to become chronic in nature. If you’re finding it difficult to manage the stress, please reach out to a mental health practitioner who can help you work on coping with it better.”