How Stress Impacts the Body and Your Mental Health
November 30, 2018
A woman slouches while feeling stressed at work.
Knowing how stress impacts the body and your mental health is an important step toward alleviating the sources of your stress and embracing a healthier body and mind. Stress, especially at work, can impact your entire day — but it's not just an annoyance. Stress can cause real physical changes that affect your posture, spinal health and mental health. Here's a quick guide to how stress can affect you and what you can do within the workplace to help.
Stress Affects Spinal Health
You might be surprised to learn that stress can have a negative impact on your spinal health. As The Joint notes, stress in your body can cause muscles to tighten, leading to poor posture. If you're feeling stressed, you might naturally slump over more, which can hurt your spine. Over time, hunched shoulders and a hanging head can cause back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain.
Stress can also cause weight gain. Chronic stress can make your body feel like it's under attack, which can lead to increased weight retention, shares Glamour. Unfortunately, weight gain can cause more back pain, which in turn causes more stress.
Just as stress leads to poor posture, poor posture can also increase stress. Studies have shown that slouching has the potential to increase the level of cortisol — a stress hormone — in the body. Slouching can also make you feel more mentally fatigued, which can make stress tougher to deal with. This leads to a self-perpetuating cycle: A difficult situation causes stress, which causes you to slouch, but slouching makes you feel even more stressed.
Adopt Healthy Ways to Beat Stress in the Workplace
Stress at work can cause a lot of problems, but that doesn't mean you're powerless. There are many strategies you can implement in the workplace to help mitigate stress. First, try to focus on having better posture while you're sitting at your desk. You might consider setting up a notification on your phone to remind you to check your posture from time to time. People who slouch tend to report greater feelings of depression and lower energy, but improving your posture can make you feel better by increasing testosterone and decreasing cortisol.
Another way to battle stress is to invest in ergonomic chairs and standing desks that encourage better posture for your employees. You could also install desk bikes, since a brief workout from time to time can help get your blood pumping, which can increase endorphins and decrease stress.
Keep healthy snacks and drinks on hand to manage your calorie intake. You can also look for emotional rewards that don't involve food at the workplace. Try going to yoga or on a walk outside during your lunch break instead of overeating. And make sure that you're taking time after work to reward yourself. Try reading a favorite novel, adopting a new hobby, going to a game night or participating in another activity you can look forward to after work.
You can also try meditation exercises at work to help you relax when things get tough, suggests the American Psychological Association. Keep a meditation app on hand for quick help when stress ramps up.
As you can see, how stress impacts the body is fairly complicated and intricate. But you can take some simple steps today to mitigate the negative effects of stress in the workplace.