Understanding Stress and Its Effects on Our Bodies

Despite being a common experience, the effects of stress on our bodies are often underestimated. This blog delves into the physiological changes stress triggers and provides resources to help manage its impact.

The Physiology of Stress

Stress is the body’s natural defense mechanism against threats and challenges. When we perceive a threat, our hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.1 These hormones prepare us for the “fight or flight” response, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and energy supplies.

Effects of Short-Term vs. Long-Term Stress

In small doses, stress can be beneficial, enhancing our ability to respond to immediate challenges. However, when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.2

Chronic Stress: The Body’s Enemy

The long-term activation of the stress response system can disrupt almost all the body’s processes, putting you at higher risk of numerous health problems, including:

  • Cardiovascular Disease: Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
  • Weight Gain: Stress can affect eating patterns, leading to obesity, weight loss, or other eating disorders.
  • Digestive Issues: It can cause stomach aches, diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive problems.
  • Immune System Suppression: Prolonged stress can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.
  • Mental Health Disorders: It’s linked to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.3

Managing Stress: Building Resilience

While we cannot eliminate stress from our lives, we can develop healthier ways of coping with it. Here are some strategies that I commonly share with patients:

  • Exercise regularly: Physical activity can help lower stress hormones and release endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters.
  • Maintain social connections: A strong support network can act as a buffer against stress.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can reduce stress.
  • Get plenty of sleep: Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.

Additional Resources for Managing Stress

You must refill your own cup by means of rest and self-care. Numerous organizations offer resources to help individuals understand and manage stress:

  • Mayo Clinic: Offers in-depth articles on stress symptoms and management strategies.4
  • Healthline: Provides comprehensive information on how stress affects the body.2
  • American Heart Association: Discusses how stress affects the body and ways to lower stress.5
  • The Stress Management Society: Offers a variety of free resources, including a 30 Day Challenge and a Daily De-Stressing Planner.6
  • The concept of the seven types of rest was popularized by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith and suggests that to feel fully rejuvenated, we need to experience different kinds of rest beyond just sleep.7


This is a starting point for understanding stress and its effects. For a more comprehensive approach, consider exploring the resources provided and seeking professional support if needed. Remember, managing stress is not a luxury, but a necessity for a healthy life. By understanding its effects and learning to manage it effectively, we can improve our health and well-being. It’s important to commit to taking proactive steps towards a less stressed, more vibrant life. You cannot pour from an empty cup, therefore try to implement self-care efforts, such as the ones mentioned above.

Picture of Rashadah Jordan, DMSC, PA-C, CAQ Psychiatry

Rashadah Jordan, DMSC, PA-C, CAQ Psychiatry

Rashadah Jordan, DMSC, PA-C, CAQ Psychiatry, has been a Board Certified PA since 2018 and has practiced in outpatient and addiction medicine, and currently practices in psychiatry. She earned a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in psychiatry and her Doctorate in Medical Science. Jordan is a true advocate for mental health.

By bridging the gap between stigma and knowledge, she's not only enhancing understanding but also promoting better mental health outcomes. Her initiative to develop practical tools underscores her innovative approach to education and her commitment to empowering providers with the resources they need to deliver high-quality care.

Links and contact information: https://stan.store/theresilientpac


  1. Harvard Health. Understanding the stress response. Harvard Health. Published April 3, 2024. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response
  2. Understanding how stress affects the body. www.heart.org. Published February 8, 2024. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/lower-stress-how-does-stress-affect-the-body
  3. Chronic stress puts your heart at risk. Mayo Clinic. Published August 1, 2023.Understanding how stress affects the body. www.heart.org. Published February 8, 2024. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/lower-stress-how-does-stress-affect-the-body
  4. Pietrangelo A. The effects of stress on your body. Healthline. Published March 21, 2023. https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body
  5. Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. Mayo Clinic. Published August 10, 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987
  6. O’Donnell K. 12 ideas to support employees during National Stress Awareness Month. Cooleaf. Published April 3, 2024. https://www.cooleaf.com/blog/ideas-to-support-employees-during-national-stress-awareness-month
  7. Godreau J. Embrace these 7 types of rest. Mindful Health Solutions. Published June 12, 2023. https://mindfulhealthsolutions.com/embrace-these-7-types-of-rest/


Additional Sources

The Stress Management Society. Stress Awareness Month 2024 – The Stress Management Society. The Stress Management Society. Published March 27, 2024. https://www.stress.org.uk/SAM2024/

National Stress Awareness Month. Office of Human Resources. Published April 24, 2023. https://hr.nih.gov/working-nih/civil/national-stress-awareness-month

Shea M. The 7 types of rest you need to actually feel recharged. Shine. https://advice.theshineapp.com/articles/the-7-types-of-rest-you-need-to-actually-feel-recharged/

The Stress Management Society. Free Resources – The Stress Management Society % %. The Stress Management Society. Published March 8, 2024. https://www.stress.org.uk/free-resources/

Skowron C. The 7 kinds of rest you actually need. Psychology Today. Published December 21, 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/a-different-kind-of-therapy/202212/the-7-kinds-of-rest-you-need-to-actually-feel-rejuvenated

Dalton-Smith S MD. The 7 types of rest that every person needs. ideas.ted.com. Published October 16, 2022. https://ideas.ted.com/the-7-types-of-rest-that-every-person-needs/

Gale N. What are the 7 types of rest? (Plus, the best one for you) – the good trade. The Good Trade. Published November 29, 2023. https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/7-types-of-rest/