The Physical and Physiological Effects of Stress on American Workers

Stress WorkersA certain amount of stress and anxiety in the workplace is normal – it’s unavoidable. However, persistent and/or excessive stress and anxiety can interfere with everyday functioning, as well as employee health. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America’s (ADAA) 2006 Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey, 72 percent of people with daily stress admit that it interferes with their lives at least moderately. In the workplace, specifically, employees say stress and anxiety most often impact:

  • workplace performance (56 percent)
  • relationship with coworkers and peers (51 percent)
  • quality of work (50 percent)
  • relationships with superiors (43 percent)

83 percent of men and 72 percent for women admit that workplace stress carries over into their personal lives as well.

The Effects of Stress

On the Brain

When a person becomes stressed, their brain undergoes both chemical and physical changes. During periods of high stress, certain chemicals begin to rise in the brain, chiefly  dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. This causes “fight-or-flight” hormones, like adrenalin, to be released by the adrenal glands, resulting in certain physiological effects – rapid heart rate, higher blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. Stress can make it difficult to focus, make decisions, and recall information, while chronic stress has been linked to depression, anxiety, phobias, and panic attacks.

In 2007, 24.3 million adults (10.9%) in the United States suffered from some type of serious psychological distress (SPD), according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

On the Body

One of the most common physical reactions to stress is the tensing of the muscles, which can lead to tension headaches, migraines, and other musculoskeletal conditions. Stress can also wreak havoc on the digestive system, directly affecting which nutrients your intestines absorb and influences how quickly food moves through your body. This can cause nausea, pain, vomiting, heartburn, constipation, acid reflux or diarrhea. Chronic stress can also lead to overeating and weight gain.

Chronic stress has also been linked to significant health risks, such as stomach ulcers, asthma, stroke, heart disease, heart attack, and even cancer.

Dealing with Stress the Best Way We Know How – On the Challenge Course!

According to researchers Tracy Hecht and Kathleen Boies, the stress relief solution you’ve been looking for could be simple: exercise. According to the pair, “sports, recreation, and fitness programs lead to less somatic complaints and higher life satisfaction,” as well as “lower absenteeism and higher job satisfaction.” Meanwhile, researchers Douglas Kleiber, Susan Hutchinson, and Richard Williams found that leisure activities play four important factors in overcoming negative life events:

  1. Leisure activities can help distract participants from negative life events.
  2. Leisure activities can provide temporary reliefby generating optimism.
  3. Leisure activities can provide a sense of control and normalcy.
  4. Leisure activities can bring motivation of attaining new goals and looking forward to the future.

In 2010, researcher Jenny Phan tested this notion with an emphasis on challenge courses and team building activities, testing the benefits of these activities on 120 subjects. The results revealed that challenge courses and team building activities “impacted the participants at an emotional and social level,” and most participants saw a noticeable increase in their “emotional and social skills.” Of the 120 participants, 79 stated that the activities had some type of an impact on their ability to overcome fear, 76 noted a positive impact on self-esteem, 104 trust, 97 confidence, 83 empathy, 75 ease of stress, and 94 noted a positive outlook on life after their afternoon on the challenge course.

“It is clear that challenge course experiences are beneficial tools for participants” and can impact “a variety of educational and psychological constructs,” write researchers Gillis and Speelman.

Reward Your Employees with a Day on the Challenge Course

Conveniently located between Baltimore and Washington, DC, Terrapin Adventures features the ultimate challenge course with three fun-filled levels, taking you up to 40 ft. in the air! We employ a continuous belay system, and all aerial adventures are led by our uniquely trained guides who are all about making sure you stay safe while having a great time.

Reservations are suggested for all adventures to make sure you won’t have to wait too long.  

Schedule Your Adventure Today!

If you have any questions, please call Terrapin Adventure at 301.725.1313, or email us at to learn more.

Works Cited

  1. Dr. Isaac EliazJune 8, 2011 3:30 PM. “Why Stress Management Is So Important for Your Health.” Mindbodygreen. N.p., 08 June 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
  2. “Highlights: Workplace Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
  3. Rohnke, Karl, Catherine M. Tait, Jim B. Wall, and Jim B. Wall. The Complete Ropes Course Manual. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Pub., 1997. Print.
  4. Gillis, Lee H., and Elizabeth Speelman. “Are Challenge (Ropes) Courses an Effective Tool? A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Experiential Education 31.2 (2008): 111-35. Web.
  5. Haras, K., Bunting, C., & Witt, P. (2005). Linking outcomes with ropes course program design and delivery. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 23(2), 36.
  6. Hecht and Boies (2009). Structure and correlates of spillover from nonwork to work: An examination of nonwork activities, well-being, and work outcomes. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 14(4), 414-426. Retrieved on October 14, 2009 from Ebsco Host.
  7. Phan, Jenny. “The Impact of Therapeutic Recreation through Ropes Courses and Teambuilding Activities.” Diss. 2011. Abstract. Print.
  8. Kleiber, Douglas A., Susan L. Hutchinson, and Richard Williams. “Leisure as a Resource in Transcending Negative Life Events: Self-Protection, Self-Restoration, and Personal Transformation.” Leisure Sciences 24.2 (2002): 219-35. Web.
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