Stress Affects Both Our Minds and Bodies

Have you ever felt “run down” after a big life event? Maybe you are moving, starting a new job, or experiencing a transition in life and you notice you’re fighting off a cold or feeling extra fatigue.

Feeling sick or tired during stressful times in life is very common. Stress can hide in our bodies and manifest in ways that can affect our health. During Mental Health Awareness Month, we want to highlight some of the ways stress can affect our bodies, and what we can do to make sure we are prioritizing both our mental and physical health.

At Lakeland Regional Health, we know that mental health plays a huge role in our physical health. And because those work hand in hand, we sat down with one of our primary care providers and one of our psychiatrists. Dr. Nicole Shirvani, Medical Director of Outpatient Behavioral Health at our Harrell Family Center for Behavioral Wellness, and Dr. Alexandra von Lindeman, Family Medicine Physician and Lakeland Regional Health Primary Care Ambulatory Medical Director discuss their expertise on how stress affects our bodies.


Nicole Shirvani, MD



Alexandra von Lindeman, DO

Family Medicine

What are some examples of daily stress?

Dr. von Lindeman: “There are so many examples of daily stress that my patients discuss during their appointments. Daily stressors include personal health concerns, balancing life and work, raising kiddos, caring for aging parents, and financial worries, to name a few. Stress can result in feeling unwell in general. It makes people feel tired, anxious, sad, blue, or unmotivated.”

Dr. Shirvani: “Daily stress can include both big things and small things like getting kids to school on time, completing school assignments, being stuck in traffic, managing finances, dealing with difficult people or conflicts in our daily interactions, getting things done at home, dealing with unexpected events, and feeling a sense of overwhelm. Stress is the body’s physical and emotional reaction to these events.”

What kind of people experience stress and/or anxiety? How common is it?

Stress is common, and can impact many different kinds of people in different stages of their life. Stress and anxiety can appear in our lives, no matter our past experiences.

Dr. Shirvani: “Stress can impact people of all ages across many settings. Studies have shown that almost 90% of people have experienced stress at one point in their lives. Certain factors can increase the likelihood of experiencing stress including lack of help or even the perceived lack of help.

Some individuals also develop anxiety in response to stress. Anxiety is a pervasive sense of nervousness and feeling that something bad is going to happen, anxiety often interferes with daily functioning. The experience of stress and anxiety is more likely in individuals who have experienced past stressors and even traumatic events. It’s important to note that even people without prior trauma can experience stress and anxiety.”

How can stress manifest, or show up, in our bodies?

Stress can show up in a passing cold, as stress affects our immune system. It can also cause us to have deeper underlying health concerns if it goes untreated.

Dr. von Lindeman: “Stress can affect our sleep, how we interact with people around us, what and how we eat which can subsequently result in the development of diabetes, hypertension, and even heart disease.”

Dr. Shirvani: “Stress can manifest in both physical and emotional ways. Stress can lead our bodies to operate in “fight or flight mode” resulting in increased cortisol which can cause disruptions in sleep leading to fatigue, it can make our bodies crave high-sugar foods, cause headaches, can lead to negative emotional states such as anxiety, it can make people less patient, and it can make it harder to learn new tasks and get things done.

Stress can impact many organ systems including our cardiovascular, gastrointestinal immune, and mental health. Weight gain, elevations in blood pressure and heart rate, and anxiety can all result from high stress levels through some of the mechanisms described.”

What are some things you recommend to combat stress affecting our health?

Dr. Shirvani: Good sleep and sleep hygiene, healthy meals, social connections with supportive people, exercise, practicing gratitude, counseling, medications, mindfulness, recognizing when to say no and not taking on too much are just a few ways to help combat stress.

Dr. von Lindeman: Maintaining connections with loved ones is crucial. Make sure you have support. Eating a healthy balanced diet. Getting regular physical activity, outside, if possible, to get exposure to the sun (using SPF of course!). Getting at least 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Breathing exercises like “box breathing” or “cyclic sighing” can also help. Referring to a counselor is also beneficial to help navigate life’s challenges.

I also recommend discussing your stress with your provider; it is a natural part of the conversation about health in general since it affects our health in so many ways.”

At Lakeland Regional Health, we are dedicated to both your mental and physical health. Our primary care providers encourage you to discuss how stress is affecting your daily life during your regular appointments. Schedule an appointment today to keep your mind and body healthy during each stage of life. Make an appointment today!

harrell family center for behavioral wellness

Harrell Family Center for Behavioral Wellness

A place of hope, connection, recovery, and support-close to home. At Lakeland Regional Health, we know that not every need a person has is physical, and we understand the powerful connection of mind and body. If you are facing mental health challenges, we are here to care for you. Our incredible behavioral wellness team at Lakeland Regional Health will partner with you through each step.

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If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis, there are resources to help.

In the event of a life-threatening emergency, always call 911.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support:

  • Local 24/7 emotional support and Crisis Line at Peace River Center 800-627-5906 or send ‘Talk’ to 863-204-3443.
  • The 988 Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the US. You can call or Text 988 for help.
  • To reach National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call 1-800-273-8255.