The Impact of Stress on the Mind and Body

Between daily responsibilities, not enough work (or pay), and the lingering effects of the pandemic, stress has been on the rise for quite some time. We will all experience stress at some point, but chronic stress can cause serious long-term health effects. 

This article will discuss physical and mental symptoms of stress and why finding ways to reduce it is important for your overall health.

What is Stress?

Stress is defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. However, sometimes worry and stress can creep up on us due to an accumulated amount of pressure felt in our day-to-day lives. This can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms like increased substance use, smoking, and avoiding loved ones.

According to Statistics Canada, a survey on Covid-19 and well-being found women reported feeling stressed most days. Human beings are built to withstand the effects of stress, but not indefinitely. This is why we can feel a jolt of adrenaline – a reaction – in certain situations. However, an individual might not know how much stress is impacting their mind and body until physical symptoms begin to appear. 

Symptoms of Stress

Restless nights, headaches, tension – they’re only a handful of symptoms associated with stress. Over time, symptoms can begin to take a serious toll on overall health causing irreversible conditions like hypertension and heart disease. Common signs of stress include:

– Low energy

– Muscle tension

– Grinding teeth

– Headaches

– Mood swings

woman awake in bed overwhelmed with stress

If the majority of these common symptoms resonate with you, it may be time to address what is causing you stress. You may not be conscious of the amount of stress you feel, but your body will give you signs. Over time, these signs can combine into larger health problems if left unaddressed. 

Let’s Find Ways to Reduce Stress!

Now that we’ve identified common symptoms and effects of stress, it’s time to find ways to reduce it. Some might say, “Change your situation”, but that can be difficult or even impossible for some individuals. If you don’t know where to start, here are four ways to reduce stress:  

Self-care: It’s been overstated, but that’s because setting time aside to take care of yourself is so important. We offer a handful of relaxing services for our clients, such as massages and nail services, as a way to unwind. Entering a calm state of mind can help us focus on what’s important to us in life.

woman journaling to overcome stress

Get a solid eight hours: When we’re stressed, sleep can seem nearly impossible. However, the cycle of no sleep and continual stress can be a vicious one. The body needs sleep to maintain a healthy immune system and keep us regulated. Finding ways to unwind before bed like journaling, reading a book, and stretching can all help the body enter a sleepy state.

Balanced diet: Nutritious food can take a backseat when it comes to stress. Lack of time can lead us to fast food or even disordered eating. If you’re unsure where to start with a balanced diet, try reaching out to a nutritionist. Our onsite nutritionist continually opens our clients’ eyes to the power of food and nutrition.

Talk it out: When the weight of your stress feels heavy, try talking it out. Speaking with a loved one or a professional about worries and stressors can help to release some of the tension and find solutions to unwanted stress. Our clients engage in CBT weekly to work on changing thinking behaviours and habits that no longer serve them.

two friends sitting in a park talking about stress

Change your mindset around stress: In a popular Ted Talk with over 14 million views, psychologist Kelly McGonigal discusses the benefits of making stress your friend. How you view stress can impact the symptoms you feel. McGonigal shares that we’re capable of harnessing stress and using it when we need courage. To understand the power of changing your mindset in stressful moments, watch the full video below – your perspective just might change.

Take it One Step at a Time

We don’t have to place so much pressure on ourselves to live a certain way, have a certain amount of money, or even feel fulfilled most days. This only leads to unnecessary stress and worry, especially when comparing ourselves to others. Even the suggestions above on how to reduce stress can leave individuals feeling the need to take on having to do everything on the list immediately, but life doesn’t work like that.

Take it one day at a time, one piece at a time, and the puzzle will begin to form a beautiful picture.

At Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic, our integrative approach aims to help women struggling with mental health. Your time with us includes 24-hour medical care, psychiatry, psychology, nutrition and fitness workshops, and many other services. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and/or addiction, contact us today.