Stress, the Emotional Tension that Alters Mind and Body

The emotional tension that comes with stress varies greatly from person to person. However, there are always common elements such as body aches, mental health disturbances, exhaustion, and despondency.
Stress, the Emotional Tension that Alters Mind and Body
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

The symptoms of stress and emotional tension are often as unsuspected as they’re dangerous. Inflammations, breathing problems, headaches, memory lapses… The problem aggravates when this emotional tension lingers over time. In other words, when you don’t set limits and your mind falls into a state of perpetual helplessness. As you can see, learning to control stress before it controls you is essential.

One could say, without fear of being wrong, that stress is a disease. It’s socially accepted — at least in part. This is because society has normalized this condition to such an extent that many workers are exhausted when they go to work. In fact, there are even children in elementary school with the same level of stress as their parents.

Moreover, there are many people with chronic problems that aren’t even aware that the origin of this duodenal ulcer isn’t only due to a bad diet. In view of all of this, medical institutions warn of something specific.

Most people aren’t aware of the symptoms of stress and you don’t think they’re important when you do notice them. It’s only after a few months or years have gone by that you finally consult your family doctor and find out you’re afflicted by hypertension, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders such as atopic dermatitis.

Thus, honor any discomfort you feel today. This is because early detection of emotional tension will allow you to effectively manage and prevent what’s already a pandemic.

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

-Chinese proverb-

A woman sleeping at her desk.

The signs of emotional tension you should know about

Stress is an allostatic state in your body. Basically, your body loses its internal homeostasis and is suddenly affected by a wide range of small disturbances. Thus, the nervous system begins to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol when you’re under pressure.

These components cause physiological changes and the effect can be positive if you experience it in a timely and time-limited manner. After all, well-managed stress drives and motivates; it’s the energy with which you achieve goals. However, the effects of these hormones can be serious when the emotional tension is chronic.

An example of this impact was recently demonstrated by a team from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. This study showed how chronic stress decreases the size of certain brain areas, such as the prefrontal cortex. Hence the difficulty in making decisions or maintaining attention.

Thus, don’t go to these extremes. You should learn to detect the signs of stress and do so on a daily basis.

Physical and organic symptoms of emotional tension

  • Recurrent headaches.
  • Back pain. Keep in mind that muscular tension derives from the classic musculoskeletal discomforts, hence shoulder and neck pain and headaches.
  • Digestive disturbances such as diarrhea, constipation, heavy digestion, and gas.
  • Palpitations or chest pressure. Emotional tension has a direct impact on the respiratory system and makes you breathe badly and faster, hence shortness of breath.
  • Hair loss.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Periods with lack of appetite and moments of extreme hunger.
  • Your endocrine system also feels the impact of this condition. In fact, one of the most serious ones concerns your liver. This is because chronic stress alters the levels of glucose on the liver, hence the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Alterations in menstruation.
  • A lack of sexual desire.
  • Finally, it’s also common to experience more colds, infections, etc.

Mental factors

The symptoms of stress vary from person to person. Thus, every person will experience this condition with a certain intensity and in their own particular way. Nevertheless, everyone experiences:

  • Irritability.
  • Discouragement.
  • Difficulty enjoying those things you used to be passionate about.
  • Problems taking advantage of and managing time.
  • Frustration and lack of patience.
  • Worry and indecision.
  • Problems making decisions and thinking. Sometimes, you may even find it difficult to answer simple questions.
  • Small memory lapses in daily life.
  • Life ceases to have meaning and nothing seems to make sense.
  • Apathy.

Symptoms of emotional tension that affect your behavior

There’s a striking fact associated with stress. This is because, instead of facing and managing this uncomfortable dweller that invades the mind, takes away peace, and diminishes health, some people set in motion responses that are even more dangerous than stress.

Thus factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or doing drugs can lead to even more neurotic states. You must be clear on the fact that stress maintained over time shapes a version of you that you’ll surely dislike. It’s evident through the following behaviors:

  • Low productivity.
  • There are problems in your personal relationships, you lose contact with your social circle and find it difficult to communicate with your children, etc.
  • Stress weakens your self-esteem and you feel incapable of taking care of yourself. Also, everything overwhelms, bothers, and worries you. Then, you end up undervaluing yourself without even knowing how.
A man with a headache.

Chronic stress isn’t healthy and its consequences can be disastrous. This is why detecting the symptoms, changing habits, and making use of new mental approaches will be the best solution to it. As always, seek professional help when you need it. As Buddha used to say, “Well-being and health are a duty”.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Caspi, A., Sugden, K., Moffitt, T. E., Taylor, A., Craig, I. W., Harrington, H. L., … Poulton, R. (2003). Influence of life stress on depression: Moderation by a polymorphism in the 5-HTT gene. Science301(5631), 386–389.
  • Gold PW. The organization of the stress system and its dysregulation in depressive illness. Mol Psychiatry. 2015 Feb;20(1):32-47.
  • Savic I, Perski A, Osika W. MRI Shows that Exhaustion Syndrome Due to Chronic Occupational Stress is Associated with Partially Reversible Cerebral Changes. Cereb Cortex. 2017 Jan 19.
  • Adam EK, Quinn ME, Tavernier R, McQuillan MT, Dahlke KA, Gilbert KE. Diurnal cortisol slopes and mental and physical health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017 Sep;83:25-41.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.