Whether we like it or not, we all experience stress at some point in our lives. Some people experience stress in lower levels, but some may find themselves exposed to stress in long periods of time. There are different sources of stress–it can be a financial problem, school work, family conflict, emotional pain or extreme workload. Although stress is considered a normal part of our day to day lives, we need to do our best to learn how to respond to stress and be able to avoid its ill effects in the future.
Stress may not directly cause a specific disease, but long exposure to stress can lead to many diseases. According to studies, stress has been found to be one of the risk factors of heart attack, diabetes and all types of cancers. You may not know that you are experiencing stress but there are telltale signs that you are one of those who are exposed to stress. Your mood changes, you have disturbed sleep pattern due to insomnia, and you may also experience low productivity in both work and school. In addition, you might also experience changes in your behavior towards other people, and in the way your perceive things.
Before stress takes a toll on your health, remember to recognize the signs and the cause of your stress. Take action and always remember to chill, relax and learn to wait a situation to become better before digging further into finding a solution. So, how does stress affects our health?
Surprisingly, although stress may not have an immediate effect on our body, over time, it will gradually have a negative impact in our organs. Headaches, migraines, muscle tension, irritability, inability to focus are just few of the common immediate effects of being stressed. Although it looks harmless and easy to treat with OTC medications, we need to be alarmed when it becomes chronic already.
When the body is stressed, it releases stress hormones which is normal for flight or flight responses. During ancient times, stress is needed for survival and it is essential to runaway from wildlife predators like lions. However, it is only for a short time. Today, the predators that our mind perceives are the daily responsibilities like electric bills, car loans, home rental cost and a lot more. Now, as you can see, we always face these challenges everyday which makes us stressed out longer than we should and it’s bad.
How Stress Affects Circulation and Breathing
When you get stressed, you start to breathe faster to take in more oxygen and as a result, your blood also is pumped by your heart faster than usual. Your blood vessels as well as your airway passage constricts, resulting to high blood pressure and breathing difficulties. Although this body reactions are normal in certain circumstances like facing a threat or emergency, prolonged constriction of the blood vessels makes it inelastic, places burden to the heart causing many types of cardiovascular diseases.
How Stress Messes Up the Mind
Our Central Nervous System as well as Endocrine system plays a huge role in how we feel both physically and mentally. It’s like the dictator of our body’s responses especially to stress. When stressed hormones are released, in example when we are in a certain threat, it triggers the flight or fight response and then stops the reaction when the threat is already gone.
In cases where stress has become chronic especially nowadays, where we always think about bills, work, competition, boss problem or conflict, the fight or flight response is always running in our system. Your mind now starts to think that you are always facing threat. This in turn will cause behavioral changes like depression, anxiety as well as irritability. In addition, it also affects the way a person interacts with other people. Some are even reported to have become withdrawn socially and some also develops eating disorders.
How Stress Affect Your Digestion
Digestive system also gets affected when a person is stressed out. In order to compensate for your mind’s hard work, your body releases a surge of sugar in the blood. The perceived stress helps your mind become active and alert, giving you such high level of blood sugar. When this becomes chronic, it results to Type 2 Diabetes which can be reversible though with lifestyle changes. In addition to surge of sugar in the blood, other people also experience constipation or diarrhea which can be distressing for most people affected by it.
How Stress Affects Your Muscles
Have you ever wondered why you suddenly develop a nagging head pain? Or complain of that painful shoulder or back pain? Experiencing stress may be the culprit of it. Under stress, the muscles in our body tenses and is always on the ‘fight’ mode and relaxes shortly when the stress source is gone. When it becomes chronic, your muscles won’t have the chance to relax, it becomes tight for long resulting to symptoms mentioned above including overall body aches.
How Stress Affects Immune System
Although immune system can be stimulated from being exposed to stress in a short period of time, it malfunctions once the stress becomes chronic already. Due to high amount of cortisol (stress hormone), your body’s defenses becomes compromised since histamine secretion is inhibited. When this happens, any foreign invaders like viruses for example can’t be controlled and you will suffer more likely from contracting flu and common colds than a healthy person. Bacteria may also proliferate inside the body if you have no ‘army cells’ roaming around your system.
What to Do Now?
Now that we already know how chronic stress will lead to many types of diseases, be sure to check your lifestyle and identify the causes of your stress. Not only will it make you feel better and relaxed but also it will make you healthier and happy. Controlling the way you respond to stress will also help you avoid from developing diseases so you live a more fulfilling life in the future.