Have you ever suffered from stress? Do you think this phenomenon only affects the body? As a matter of fact, the reality is that there are a number of emotional consequences of stress.
Although stress can be adaptive at specific times, prolonged stress negatively impacts both your emotions and your state of mind. For this reason, you need to know about the consequences it can have.
“The mind has great influence over the body, and maladies often have their origin there.”
-Jean Baptiste Molière-
Stress is a physiological and psychological state that arises when the demands of the environment exceed your resources and capacities. When you feel stressed, you feel overwhelmed. In fact, this state is preparing you to react more quickly to environmental signals (especially alarm signals).
However, there are different types of stress. For example, if you’re attacked by a lion, this is specific, adaptive, and justified stress. However, if you suffer ongoing stress, such as when you’re experiencing continual problems at work, this is the chronic and persistent kind.
Stress arises from a very primitive mechanism. It’s a mechanism that has developed over our millions of years of evolution. For this reason, not only people experience stress, but also animals (to ensure their survival).
How does stress affect you?
Stress impacts your body at a physiological level. However, it also affects your thoughts and emotions. Therefore, suffering stress not only implies emotional exhaustion and fatigue, tension, hyperarousal… but also anxiety and discomfort.
However, what are the most frequent emotional consequences of stress? Let’s find out.
Emotional consequences of stress
As you’ve seen, stress affects your emotions. In fact, your emotions, your body, and your mind can’t be separated from each other. Some of the most prominent emotional consequences of stress are:
1. Upset due to lack of control
One of the main emotional consequences of stress is the uncomfortable feeling that arises from a lack of perceived control of your emotions and sensations. In these situations, you usually feel a desire to control what you feel and what happens to you.
However, when you’re feeling “overwhelmed” and unable to manage these sensations, you feel uncomfortable. Furthermore, added to that discomfort is sometimes impotence and concern because you feel you’re unable to change the situation.
As we mentioned earlier, when you feel stressed, you try to control what happens to you both inside and out. Furthermore, you may have a tendency to continually check the things that you want to change, or make “okay”.
These checks often lead to more anxiety and a sense of learned helplessness.
One example of this kind of emotional consequence of stress would be continually checking and re-checking that you’ve made an absolutely perfect report for your boss. This is because you’re afraid he’ll reprimand you, which would increase your stress.
3. Feed negative thoughts
Stress also has an impact on your thinking system. In this way, it feeds catastrophic and negative thoughts (also typical of anxiety).
These thoughts have a direct impact on your emotions and your state of mind. In fact, thinking negatively can make you feel weaker and sadder. Then, your stress increases. It’s a vicious circle.
4. Learned helplessness
Learned helplessness, mentioned earlier, is another emotional consequence of stress. It’s defined as the feeling that you’re, effectively, powerless, and that you can’t do anything to change – and improve – your situation.
When you suffer stress, and above all, prolonged or chronic stress, you can end up developing this perception. It makes you feel more uncertainty, discomfort, and anguish.
5. Increased irritability
Irritability is another of the emotional consequences of stress. Irritability implies that your threshold of reacting to events in the environment decreases. This means that you’re susceptible and things annoy you more easily.
What about stress? As a matter of fact, when you’ve been stressed for a long time, your irritability increases. This is for several reasons. Firstly, you’re physically and emotionally exhausted. Secondly, the fact of feeling “overwhelmed” means that you don’t have so much patience for reacting calmly to situations.
According to Gil-Monte (2002), cited in a study by Zavalda (2008), burnout is a response to chronic work stress. It also encompasses physical as well as emotional symptoms. In fact, Zavala claims that burnout is one of the emotional consequences of stress.
Some of the symptoms of burnout are lack of energy, feeling overloaded, irritability, inability to concentrate, and feeling overwhelmed, etc. It’s a syndrome that arises in the workplace. Nevertheless, it also affects your personal and emotional life.
Stress, especially chronic or long-term stress, can make you feel emotionally upset, overwhelmed, and weighed down. It can even make you sad. These are just some of the emotional consequences of stress. However, they can be prevented when you treat the underlying problem.
In these cases, psychological therapy is always beneficial. In addition, you should implement healthy lifestyle habits. For example, a balanced diet and adequate sleep. You should also establish a proper schedule and routine, take regular exercise, and eliminate any unnecessary sources of stress, etc.
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