It’s remarkable how much of an influence the mind has over the body. We can make our bodies do incredible things with willpower; but on the other hand, depression, stress, and anxiety can also have quite a negative impact on our physiological well-being.

You might notice that when you’re having an especially stressful day, you may develop a tension headache, have difficulties eating or eat too much, or have an increased heart rate or heart palpitations. Whether or not you want to believe it, the mind and body are intertwined and affect one another significantly (which is why a holistic approach to medicine is important). Below, you will find how stress can penetrate various systems of your body, knocking you off balance and making your day even worse. This is why it’s important to learn how to manage stress.


If you’ve ever experienced a tension headache paired with neck pain, you know how much stress can make your muscles contract and tense up. When we are stressed, our adrenaline goes up, making us more likely to jump or be anxious about looming danger. This is why our muscles reflexively react to stress by tensing up — as a way to protect us from injury.

Though it appears the body has good intentions, tense muscles can be quite painful if they last a while. Tension in the shoulders, neck, and head can cause migraines that will only compound your stress. If you ever feel like you’ve got too much going on, it might be a good idea to invest in a massage, get enough sleep, exercise, and drink plenty of water to help relax your muscles.


As stated before, acute stress (short-term periods of stress, like work deadlines) cause an increase in stress hormones, known as adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. During these moments, heart rate increases and blood vessels dilate, increasing blood pressure.

Chronic stress, meanwhile, can ultimately cause damage to your cardiovascular system. “[A] constant stress experienced over a prolonged period of time, can contribute to long-term problems for heart and blood vessels,” the American Psychological Association explains. “The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and elevated levels of stress hormones and of blood pressure, can take a toll on the body.” Ultimately, it can lead to hypertension, heart palpitations, heart attack, or stroke.

Respiratory System

When you get stressed or anxious, people often tell you to focus on your breathing. This is why meditation-based exercises like yoga — which pair stretching and strengthening your muscles with deep, focused breathing — are so good for alleviating chronic stress. The effect of stress on your respiratory system is especially worrisome for people who suffer from asthma or a lung disease, like emphysema. In some cases, stress actually leads to the development of asthma over time. If you find yourself breathing faster than normal — also known as hyperventilating — you should focus on taking deep, slow breaths in order to avoid a panic attack that might compound your symptoms.

Nervous System

The nervous system is a delicate balance of several features — there’s the central nervous system which includes the spinal cord and brain, as well as the “peripheral division” which involves the autonomic (ANS) and somatic nervous systems. The autonomic system, meanwhile, is divided into the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is responsible for creating the “fight or flight” response during stressful times, which braces the body to fight off a threat or danger. Essentially, the SNS is responsible for causing all the above changes to occur in your various bodily systems — from the release of stress hormones to an increased heart rate and digestive changes. This is why chronic stress can be such a long-term drain — the constant ups and downs of stress responses can take a toll on your body.

Stomach And Digestion

Yes, stress does affect your digestive system too — and your bowel movements. You might experience the nervous sensation of butterflies or even nausea. Muscle tension can lead to sharp, long-term pain in your abdomen, which you might — in a panicky state — confuse to be an ulcer or something much worse. The fact is, chronic stress can eventually cause ulcers; but it can also cause pain that feels like ulcers — one of those mind tricks that fuels anxiety and hypochondria that you must learn to avoid.

Stress can also impact what nutrients your digestive tract absorbs, and how fast food moves through your system. According to the APA, you might find that you have problems either with diarrhea or constipation depending on your level of stress.

So what can we take from all this? The fact is, stress over a long period of time can truly take a toll on us and our immune systems, which ultimately leads to an increased chance of getting ill. Finding ways to reduce stress and exercise can save you the problems that stress can induce.