Stress is one of the most common health complaints in our society. We’re all under an incredible amount of pressure every day, and sometimes it doesn’t let up for weeks on end. Stress can induce headaches among other complications, like anxiety. Anxiety is a byproduct of stress that can cause chest pain or tightness. We’re going to look at what exactly stress is to help you recognize where your stress may be coming from, along with several methods you can use to respond healthily, minimizing how it affects your life.
What Stress Is
Believe it or not, some stress is actually beneficial. Stress is simply how our bodies react to real or perceived threats. We produce a chemical reaction popularly known as “fight-or-flight” that prepares our bodies to protect ourselves. When you encounter a threat, your heart rate and breathing increase, your blood pressure rises, and your muscles tighten. You’re ready to face danger or run from it.
All of this is perfectly natural. When your stress response is working properly, you’re alert, focused, and energized. This is how you react quickly in actual, life-threatening situations, like when you need to hit the brakes to avoid a collision. Our bodies are able to handle stress in brief bursts, but long-term or chronic stress can affect us very negatively. Stress can impact our emotional outlook and how we behave, as well as our ability to think and process information. Ongoing stress can produce or exacerbate a variety of serious physical and mental health problems including anxiety, cardiovascular disease, eating disorders, gastrointestinal issues, and skin and hair problems.
Anxiety and Chest Pains or Tightness
If you experience chest pain that you believe to be serious, don’t second guess yourself! It is always better to be safe than sorry. Actual heart attacks begin subtly, with mild pain, so don’t try to wait it out. Call 911 immediately for emergency medical help or have someone take you to the nearest hospital.
While chronic stress can bring on real cardiovascular issues, anxiety symptoms are often mistaken for more serious heart problems. Anxiety can make your chest tighten, causing you to experience a sharp stab or a dull ache. Chest pain or tightness can also cause a burning sensation, a crushing sensation, pain traveling up your neck, pain jabbing through to your back, or pain pulsing down either or both of your arms. With symptoms like these it is easy to understand how easily chest pain can be mistaken for a heart attack!
Coping with Stress
Learn to appreciate your support network. Your family and friends can be a great source of strength in your life and can help offset anxiety. If you feel lonely and isolated, you’re considerably more vulnerable to stress. Have confidence in yourself and believe that you are capable of change. Recognize that you can persevere and navigate the challenges that are causing you stress. Try to maintain an optimistic outlook. This may sound difficult, but you can accept that stress is a fact of life and face challenges with a sense of humor. Try to balance your emotions. The more resilient you are in the face of adversity, the less likely it is that you will be overwhelmed. Do your best to understand stressful situations objectively. When you know how long your stressors will last and what to expect, it will be easier for you to cope. Remember that stress is an inevitable part of life; the most important thing is how you choose to deal with it. Start by recognizing the symptoms of your own stress, and learn how to process them to avoid any serious health consequences.
If you find that you have recurring episodes of chest pain or tightness, or if you feel that stress may be causing other physical issues, talk to a healthcare professional at your local FastMed Urgent Care. Our staff will help you to be sure that you aren’t missing the warning signs for other health problems. We’re open 365 days a year, 7 days a week – stop by any time!