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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp

Last modified: June 23rd, 2023

Stress is a common experience in our daily working lives that can impact our physical and emotional well-being. When we experience stress, it can often feel like it is affecting our whole being. This isn’t that far from the truth. Have you ever wondered where is stress stored in the body?

While we may perceive stress as a mental or emotional state, research suggests it is also physically stored in our bodies. In fact, stress can manifest as physical tension in specific areas of the body, leading to discomfort or pain.

We’ve already discussed what stress is, why we have it, and where it comes from. In the second article in the series, we discover where we store stress in our body and how it presents itself physically.

Understanding the role of stress hormones

Stress hormones play a significant role in regulating the body’s response to stress and the body’s overall state of health. Stress hormones, or glucocorticoids, are released in response to a stressful event or situation. Examples of stress hormones include epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, cortisol, and oxytocin. These hormones help the body to cope with the stressor by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, as well as activating the body’s fight-or-flight response. Releasing these hormones can have physical and psychological effects on the body, such as increased heart rate and sweating.


Cortisol is the primary stress hormone released whenever the body is under stress. It helps the body respond to stress by providing energy and increasing blood sugar levels, improving alertness and focus. Cortisol also helps to regulate the body’s immune system, making it easier to fight infection. Cortisol has a calming effect on the body and can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

Adrenaline is another essential stress hormone, it helps to increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate. Adrenaline also helps release energy stores and increase alertness, allowing the body to respond quickly.

Epinephrine and norepinephrine

Norepinephrine and epinephrine are two other stress hormones released in response to stress. Norepinephrine is involved in the body’s fight-or-flight response, while epinephrine regulates metabolism. Both hormones also help to regulate the body’s response to stress. They can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

Stress hormones are essential in regulating the body’s response to stress. When the body is under pressure, these hormones help to provide energy, improve alertness, and control the body’s immune system. These hormones can also help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. However, too much stress can lead to an overproduction of stress hormones, harming health. Managing stress levels to keep stress hormones healthy and maintain good health is vital.

The physical symptoms of stress: Where is stress stored in the body?

The physical effects of stress can range from mild to severe, including anything from a headache or upset stomach to chest pain and heart palpitations.

  • Headache is a common physical effect of stress. This is usually caused by muscle tension and can range from a dull ache to sharp pain. People who experience frequent or severe headaches may need to see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
  • An upset stomach is another physical effect of stress. This can range from increased stomach acid, resulting in heartburn or indigestion, to nausea, constipation, or diarrhea. Pressure can also increase the risk of developing stomach ulcers.
  • Chest pain is a common symptom of anxiety and stress. This can be caused by muscle tension or a sign of a more serious medical condition. See a doctor if chest pain persists or is accompanied by other symptoms such as shortness of breath, sweating, or dizziness.
  • Heart palpitations are another physical effect of stress. This can cause a feeling of fluttering or racing heartbeats, and it can be accompanied by chest pain or shortness of breath. Palpitations can be caused by anxiety or stress, or they may indicate an underlying heart condition.
  • High blood pressure is a physical effect of stress. This can be caused by the body producing too much stress hormone cortisol, constricting the blood vessels, and increasing blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to other physical effects, such as headaches, chest pain, and fatigue.

Other physical symptoms

  • Muscle tension is a common physical effect of stress. This can cause aches and pains throughout the body, headaches, neck, and shoulder pain, and jaw pain. Muscle tension can also lead to muscle spasms, resulting in stiffness and a limited range of motion.
  • Fatigue is another physical effect of stress. This can range from mild to extreme exhaustion, making it difficult to concentrate or complete daily tasks.
  • Weight gain is another physical effect of stress. This is often caused by increased appetite due to stress hormones or decreased physical activity.

If any of these physical effects are causing distress or interfering with daily life, seeking medical help is essential.

Where is stress stored in the body

Cardiovascular system

Stress can profoundly impact the cardiovascular system, as hormones such as adrenaline increase heart rate and blood pressure. This strains the heart, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. People already at risk for cardiovascular disease are more likely to experience these health complications due to their existing condition.

While the body’s stress response can be beneficial in the short term, prolonged stress can lead to chronic hypertension and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Stress can also cause inflammation and damage to the blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, overeating, and lack of exercise, contributing to cardiovascular disease. Therefore, managing stress through relaxation techniques, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle is crucial for maintaining cardiovascular health.

The nervous system

The effects of prolonged or intense stress are felt in the nervous system.

Over time, chronic stress can lead to prolonged activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which can cause damage to the body’s tissues and organs and suppress the immune system. Additionally, stress can also affect the functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating rest and relaxation. This imbalance can contribute to a wide range of physical and mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

The immune system

When it is stressed, the body releases stress hormones. These hormones temporarily suppress the immune system, directing more resources toward physical and mental performance. However, suppose stress is chronic, and cortisol and adrenaline levels remain elevated. In that case, the immune system can become suppressed over time, leading to an increased risk of illness.

Cortisol, in particular, harms the immune system by reducing the number and activity of immune cells, including natural killer cells and T-cells. This immune system suppression makes it more difficult for the body to fight infections and illnesses. Also, high cortisol levels can increase inflammation, further compromising the immune system.

While necessary for the body’s fight or flight response, adrenaline can also suppress the immune system if stress levels are prolonged. This hormone increases heart rate and blood pressure, reducing blood flow to the digestive and immune systems. This reduction in blood flow can limit the body’s ability to respond to infections and illnesses.

Stress significantly impacts business executives’ health and can make them more susceptible to infections and illnesses. The constant release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, can suppress the immune system, reducing the number and activity of immune cells. This makes it more difficult for the body to fight infections and illnesses.

Chronic stress can also increase inflammation in the body, further compromising the immune system and making individuals more susceptible to illness. In addition, stress can cause other physical and mental health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, depression, and anxiety.

Moreover, stress can also interfere with sleep, which is critical for immune function. Sleep is essential for the body to repair and restore itself. Chronic sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system, making business executives more vulnerable to illness.

Case study 1: Where is stress stored in the body: immune system

John was a successful business executive who was always on the go. He had a demanding job and often worked long hours. One day, he felt run down and caught colds more often than usual. After speaking with his doctor, he learned that his high-stress levels affected his immune system.

The constant release of stress hormones suppresses his body’s ability to fight infections and illnesses. John realized he needed to take control of his stress levels to keep his health and productivity in check. He changed his lifestyle by practicing mindfulness, exercising regularly, and prioritizing time for relaxation and self-care. By managing his stress levels, John was able to boost his immune system and stay on top of his game at work.

Case study 2

Jane was a high-level business executive who was always under a lot of stress. She was constantly running from one meeting to another, and her to-do list never seemed to get any shorter.

Despite her busy schedule, she never seemed to take a break. One day, she caught a cold that quickly turned into pneumonia. She was shocked that something as simple as a cold could take her out of commission for so long.

After speaking with her doctor, she learned that her high-stress levels made her more susceptible to infections and illnesses. The constant release of stress hormones was suppressing her immune system, making it more difficult for her body to fight off infections. Jane realized she needed to take control of her stress levels and make her health a priority.

She changed her lifestyle by practicing mindfulness, exercising regularly, and prioritizing time for relaxation and self-care. By managing her stress levels, Jane was able to boost her immune system and get back to work feeling refreshed and recharged.

The link between stress and mental health

Stress and mental health are also closely related. Stressful events or situations can affect a person’s mental well-being and contribute to the development of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Chronic stress can also worsen existing mental health conditions.

Some ways stress can affect their mental health include:

  • Increased anxiety and depression: High-stress levels can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression, including feelings of hopelessness, irritability, and sleep disturbances.
  • Decreased cognitive function: Stress can impair memory, decision-making, and attention, making it more challenging to perform complex tasks and think critically.
  • Burnout: Chronic stress and a lack of work-life balance can lead to feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, and detachment from work, known as burnout.
  • Physical health problems: Stress can increase the risk of heart disease, obesity, and other physical health issues, further impacting mental health.
  • Impairment of relationships: Stress can strain personal and professional relationships, leading to increased conflict and decreased social support.
  • Insomnia: Insomnia is a sleep disorder caused by stress and anxiety. Individuals with insomnia may have difficulty falling or staying asleep, leading to fatigue and decreased productivity.
  • Substance abuse: Substance abuse is a common problem among business executives under high-stress levels. Alcohol and drugs are commonly used to cope with stress and can lead to addiction and other adverse health consequences.

Psychological manifestations

  • Panic disorder: Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by sudden and intense episodes of fear. Business executives who experience panic attacks may become overwhelmed and unable to perform their duties effectively.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): OCD is a mental health condition characterized by intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Business executives with OCD may become consumed by repetitive behaviors, leading to decreased productivity and strained relationships.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event. Business executives who have experienced a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster or workplace crisis, may experience PTSD, flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, and anxiety.

It is essential for business executives to recognize the signs of stress and to take proactive steps to manage it, such as practicing self-care, delegating responsibilities, and seeking support from mental health professionals if needed. Early intervention and treatment can help prevent these conditions from becoming more severe and impacting overall health and success in the workplace.

Case study 3: Where is stress stored in the body – mental health

A successful business executive named Johnson had always been the picture of efficiency and calm. He was known for his effortless handling of multiple projects and tight deadlines. However, over time, the stress of his job began to take its toll on him.

Despite his best efforts, he found himself feeling more and more overwhelmed, irritable, and exhausted.

Johnson struggled to sleep and began to experience frequent headaches and muscle tension. He also noticed a decline in his mood, becoming increasingly anxious and easily frustrated.

He realized that the stress of his job was affecting his mental health and decided to seek help from a mental health professional.

Through therapy, Johnson learned about the impact of stress on his body and mind and developed strategies to manage it. He started exercising regularly, practicing mindfulness, and prioritizing self-care.

He also changed his work life, delegating responsibilities and setting boundaries to reduce his workload.

Johnson’s efforts paid off, and he regained control over his stress levels. He felt more focused, energized, and confident in his abilities. He also noticed an improvement in his relationships and was better able to handle the challenges of his job.

This story illustrates how stress can negatively impact mental health. Still, it’s possible to manage it and improve well-being with the proper support and tools.

Case study 4

Sarah, a successful business executive, was struggling with sadness and hopelessness and often felt overwhelmed and anxious. She had worked hard to get to where she was, but the long hours, high pressure, and constant demands of her job had taken a toll on her mental health.

Despite her success, Sarah felt as though she was losing control. She could not sleep at night and constantly felt exhausted and burned out. To cope with the stress, Sarah turned to alcohol but found that it only worsened things.

One day, Sarah realized that she needed help. She contacted a therapist, who diagnosed her with depression and anxiety. With the use of therapy and medication, Sarah managed her symptoms and got her life back on track. She learned to prioritize self-care and to set healthy boundaries in her work and personal life.

Sarah’s story reminds us that mental health is essential to overall well-being, regardless of our success. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, it’s necessary to seek help and support. With the right resources, overcoming even the most difficult challenges is possible.


In conclusion, stress is a complex physiological response to a range of physical and psychological stimuli. And we feel its effects throughout the entire body. While stress is often experienced as a mental or emotional state, it is ultimately a physical phenomenon that can manifest in a variety of ways, including changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to where stress is stored in the body, it is clear that stress can profoundly affect both physical and mental health. By understanding how stress can affect the body, individuals can take steps to mitigate its adverse effects and cultivate greater resilience in the face of life’s challenges.

Read more about how stress affects the body and how to manage stress in our stress series:


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