When you are under stress, your muscles tense up. This is a reflex action and a way your muscles respond to stress. Prolonged stress can lead to migraine and headaches, muscle soreness and even chronic pain. Other musculoskeletal disorders, muscle atrophy and muscle tension can all be traced back to excessive stress.
Stress affects your respiratory system adversely as well. During stress, the natural response is to breathe harder. For those suffering from emphysema or any lung disease, this leads to respiratory problems like asthma attacks. The air passage between the nose and the lungs constricts making breathing difficult. This can also lead to panic attacks.
During episodes of stress, the stress hormones adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline are released in the body. These result in a sudden increase in your heart rate as a lot of blood is pumped at once and blood pressure increases rapidly. Once the stress has passed, the body returns to normal again. But prolonged stress and repeated spikes in blood pressure levels can be harmful. It could lead to heart diseases, especially in postmenopausal women who have lesser estrogen and are therefore more susceptible to cardiovascular disorders.
Some stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine trigger the liver to produce more glucose, so as to give you energy to deal with the stress – in order to “fight or flight” during an emergency situation. But mostly, this glucose goes unused as there really is nothing to fight or run away from. Then the body reabsorbs this blood sugar. Now if you are subjected to stress over and over again, the extra blood sugar produced can be harmful to the extent that it can lead to Type 2 diabetes in some people. Obese persons and those prone to high blood sugar levels are more vulnerable than others.
Heartburn is mainly acid reflex which is a gastrointestinal disorder related to overeating. Under stress, you are likely to eat more than usual. You may also use tobacco or alcohol too much which could result in heartburn or acid reflux.
During stress, the stomach can act weirdly and even the slightest sensation in the stomach is noticed by the brain and emphasized upon. Therefore, you can feel nausea or pain in the stomach. Indigestion is a major issue during stress – the intestinal absorption of nutrients gets affected, bowel movement becomes irregular and you may also get diarrhea.
Continued stress can affect menstruating cycles. It can lead to painful periods and irregular menstruation cycles. Stress can also lead to other premenstrual symptoms like mood swings, cramping, fluid retention and bloating. Prolonged stress can also result in reduction of libido or reduced sexual desire.