The Physical Dangers of Not Dealing With Stress, Anxiety, and Tension
by Dr. Denise Jagroo, DPT, MTC, WCS
Did you know that you could be hiding your tension? Your stress? Your anxiety? It’s not one of those things where you tuck it away and it stays quiet. It wants to be heard and it’s trying to tell you something! If you are not dealing with your anxiety, stress, and tension in a productive manner, all kinds of problems can occur.
If you hold your tension in your body, you can develop really tight muscles. Some people hold their tension in their shoulders. Some people tighten their pelvic muscles and don’t even realize it. Some people clench their jaws and hold on to their tension in the facial muscles. Where do you hold your tension?
If you are constantly tightening your muscles due to stress, you can develop trigger points or spasms. The muscle can forget how to relax and end up staying contracted, even if you are not doing anything. This is an unhealthy condition for you and your muscles.
Stress and anxiety can also affect your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone because it is secreted in higher levels during the body’s fight-or-flight response, is an important hormone in the body. It has positive effects such as regulation of blood pressure, insulin release for blood sugar maintenance, immune function, inflammatory response, and heightened memory functions, and helps maintain balance in your body systems.
While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body relax after a stressful experience and return to normal functioning. Dealing with stress, anxiety, and tension on a chronic basis can lead to problems with constant high levels of cortisol, such as:
- Impaired cognitive performance
- Suppressed thyroid function
- Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
- Decreased bone density
- Decrease in muscle tissue
- Higher blood pressure
- Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
- Increased abdominal fat
You must decide how you will deal with stressors in your life. Here are some suggestions:
- Speak to a trained professional: A counselor, therapist, or psychologist can help you with coping techniques to properly deal with stress.
- Meditation: Download some free apps for your smartphone with guided meditations or nature sounds.
- Journal: Keep a journal with you at all times so you can jot down stressful thoughts that are swirling around in your head.
- Physical Exercise: Get your heart pumping to release those feel good hormones!
- Breathing exercises: Deep breathing exercises stimulates neural connections to relax your brain and body
- Yoga: Even if you are not limber, don’t be shy to try this very relaxing and healthy practice
Even if you are nervous to try these suggestions, find something that makes you happy and helps to express any stress that you are holding in. Whatever it is, make sure you are getting your anxiety out in a healthy way!
Dr. Denise Jagroo, DPT, MTC, WCS is an author with works available at drjagroo.com and is a Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Women’s Health Physical Therapy with a practice at Tournesol Wellness in New York City.