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How Stress Affects the Body and Nervous System

by Tatiana Alcazar

June 7, 2021

how stress affects the body
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Stress is a national epidemic among US adults. As a country struggling with stress, 33% of the US adults feel they are living in extreme stress. In fact, over 48% of the population feel their stress has increased over the past five years. So, this is how important to know how stress affects our body.

Stress in the modern world pairs with the feeling that we don’t have control over events in our lives. What you need to know is that prolonged stress has a toxic toll on the mind, soul, and body.  

Want to know how stress affects the body?

Read on and learn how stress affects the body and the nervous system.   

How Does Stress Affect the Body?

The first thing that you need to know is that stress response lives in the nervous system. When exposed to a stressful event, the autonomic nervous systems kick in. The ANS is part of the nervous system responsible for controlling body actions.

That includes:  

  • Respiratory rate  
  • Sexual arousal  
  • Urination  
  • Heart rate  
  • Digestion among others   

The autonomic nervous system or ANS is in two parts:  

  • Sympathetic nervous system  
  • Parasympathetic nervous system   

In the body, the sympathetic nervous system has a role in how we respond to stress.  Simply put, the system generates a fight-or-flight response. Historically, the sympathetic nervous system was valuable to us for survival reasons.   

But today, that is not the response for most situations. Today, what stresses us is our finances, family responsibilities, relationships, and work too.   

Want to lead a healthy lifestyle? Then, find good ways to cope with stress.

Types Of Stress

There are two types of stress namely acute and chronic.   

Acute stress refers to the immediate reaction to a threatening situation. This type of stress comes due to the pressures and demands of the past, and it also comes due to the anticipated pressures and demands of the future.  

However, In small doses, it is exciting but it can be exhausting.   

Chronic stress is not triggered by life-threatening situations. Unlike acute stress, chronic stress is damaging to your health. In fact, it can result in physical symptoms like constipation and headaches.   

So, want to know how stress affects the body? Here is how it happens. When stressed, the body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Unlike norepinephrine and adrenaline, cortisol lingers in the body longer.  

Excessive levels of cortisol lead to physical health problems such as:  

  • Weight gain  
  • Heart disease  
  • Diabetes  
  • Inflammation  
  • Hormone imbalances  
  • Digestive problems   

When it comes to your brain, cortisol can affect it negatively. Moreover, the brain releases adrenaline when the stress response is triggered. When it's released, several physical symptoms of stress occur.   

They include:  

  • Increased blood sugar levels  
  • Increased heart rate  
  • High blood pressure   

The brain also triggers the release of cortisol by sending a signal to the pituitary glands, and this can damage the brain. For starters, it can kill cells in the hippocampus.

Also, it can cause premature aging of the brain.   

How does this happen? Cortisol binds itself to receptors in the neurons allowing more calcium in, and this leads to an overload.

As such, it overexcites the cells causing them to die.  

Mental and Emotional Signs

Stress affects our body and mental health. High level of stress can also affect the way a person feels and reacts to something. In fact, it's difficult to fulfill normal responsibilities and make difficult decisions.

 In some cases, people who experience such stress can affect their behavior, and have difficulties dealing with problems. To cope up with these feelings, some may turn to drugs, alcohol and smoking.

Additionally, stress may also affect the appetite of a person, they tend to eat less than usual and lose their motivation to keep a healthy lifestyle such as exercise, and eat healthy food. Some people also try to isolate themselves and often do not want to socialize with friends and loved ones.

Some of the signs include: 

  • Bad in decision making
  • Irritability
  • Anger control problem
  • De-motivated and lazy
  • Cannot sleep or too much sleep
  • Concentration problems
  • Anxiety
  • Anxiousness

What We Recommend?

Now that you know how stress affects the body, there are a few steps you can follow to reduce stress. Indulge in physical activity, get more sleep, try meditation and yoga. We also recommend keeping a stress diary and socializing with family and friends. 

But in case you are struggling to cope up and feel like you really need help. Seek a mental health expert for proper treatment. 

Are you in search of natural ways to heal and strengthen your body? We at Naravis can help. Contact us today and learn more about our GMO-free and all natural products.


  1. "What is Stress?" The American Institute of Stress, 4 Jan. 2017, https://www.stress.org/daily-life
  2. "Types of Stressors (Eustress vs. Distress)." MentalHelp.net, https://www.mentalhelp.net/stress/types-of-stressors-eustress-vs-distress/

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About the author 

Tatiana Alcazar  -  A software engineer, former IBMer, co-founder of Naravis Corporation and a mom, with a passion for finding the solution and root cause to everything that comes across, including health. It has been a long journey since founding Naravis and trying to find solutions to my leaky gut syndrome and pursue natural health. Throughout this journey I have learned an enormous amount of information (acquired knowledge) and I feel it's my duty to share my knowledge and my experience with you.

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