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How Emotional Stress Impacts The Brain And Body

by Mindvalley April 17, 2019

Everyone has a bad day now and then. But for some , one simple bad day can turn into a few weeks of rough sailing. And then, there seems to be no end in sight.

When you have a bad day, you may be under emotional stress. Physical symptoms often accompany the stress response, but the emotional aspects are too often overlooked.

During these times, feelings of anxiety are common. You may feel like you’re “one final straw” from a breakdown. This is your body telling you that something is wrong.

Here’s how to pay attention to the emotional stress response in the body and how to engage in proper self-care.

What Is Emotional Stress?


The American Psychological Association defines stress as an uncomfortable experience. We want or need something, and can’t get to it.

The stress response is one of both physical and emotional pain. And this pain can translate in different ways throughout the body.

How does emotional stress affect the body?

Some experts believe that emotional stress is your mind crying out for attention. It’s trying to tell you that there’s something wrong. And if you continue to ignore these distress signals, it can affect your body.

And this is what it means to be stressed out in its truest form. Your body has had enough.

Some ways that emotional stress may affect the body include:

  • sleep disturbances
  • dramatic weight fluctuations
  • changes in appetite and eating patterns
  • backaches
  • chronic pain
  • headaches
  • constipation
  • diarrhea

emotional skills

What are signs of emotional distress?

Physical symptoms are only one part of the story, though. If you’re under distress, you may experience other mental and psychological symptoms. In fact, your emotional regulation may short-circuit from the overload.

Signs and symptoms of emotional distress include:

  • Short Fuse
  • Obsessive or Compulsive Behavior
  • Lack of Energy
  • Memory Problems
  • Isolation
  • Diminished Libido

How do I stop emotional stress?

When you start to feel an emotion, you want to acknowledge it. Pay attention to it.

Jon Butcher, Author of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Program

One of the best things you can do for yourself? Pay attention to your emotions. Don’t push them down, even if they’re unpleasant.

Your emotions are trying to tell you something. So listen to your emotions.

In addition, you’ll want to acknowledge your emotions as they come up. Ignoring them or pretending that they aren’t there can make your emotional stress worse. And the stress may come up in other ways.

Another technique you can use is practicing mindfulness. Do you have a heavy feeling in your chest? Explore why it’s happening.

Also, remember to set some time aside for yourself. Pick up a journal or talk to a friend to mull over why you’re feeling overwhelmed. 

Use some quiet time to replay the “why” of the situation. And then figure out a plan of action to let it go.

Doing this can give you time to think things over without obsessing over details. Furthermore, it can help you move on to a healthy course of action.

You’re in control of your emotions, so decide what you want the response to be.

A final thought

Those emotions tell us something.

Jon Butcher, Author of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Program

Everyone goes through emotional stress. Unfortunately, chronic stress seems to be a way of life nowadays. But letting it simmer can be toxic for both your body and mind.

Don’t push your feelings down or ignore them. It’s not a healthy coping strategy and can lead to more problems down the line.

Instead, teach yourself to acknowledge, understand, and accept your emotions. Even when they aren’t pleasant.

After all, it’s only after you’ve dealt with the source of your distress that you can move on.


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What strategies do you use to deal with unpleasant emotions? Share your ideas below.

by Mindvalley
Mindvalley is creating a global school that delivers transformational education for all ages. Powered by community. Fueled by fun. We are dedicated to ensuring that humans live happier, healthier, and more fulfilled lives by plugging in the gaps that conventional education failed to teach us. We do this by organising real-world events around the world and producing world-class quality programmes in several areas of transformation, including mind, body, and performance.

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