How Does Stress Affect Your Health?
Stress. It’s a vital warning signal from our body that induced our fight-or-flight response which helps us in coping in certain situations such as seeing a task through or that much needed memory boost when preparing for a presentation. But while stress may have some perks that go with it, too much stress is detrimental to your health and the benefits that go with it will cease to exist.
How Stress Can Be Good For You
Stress is a normal part of everyday living. With all the deadlines and goals that we have set before us, feeling stressed over certain things is a normal reaction to the heavy workload that we know we have to accomplish. But this feeling of being stressed, especially when we’re in the middle of a task, may actually be beneficial for us in the short term. This type of stress is pertained to as acute stress, or short-term stress. This type of stress is something that our body can easily recover from and from which the body may get some much needed push.
Stress is one of the body’s ways of building resilience and it is also one of the body’s initial protective response to any given stressful situation. Stress induces our body to release certain chemicals such as cortisol and epinephrine which helps the body determine a fight-or-flight response to any given situation. The release of these hormones, often called as an “adrenaline rush”, increases blood pressure and heart rate which actually has the capacity to improve your focus and may possibly give you better perception of the situation that you are in.
Stress can be good for you in moments that require immediate reaction
Stress also sends trigger warnings to the body that something may not be going so well which then creates a chain of reactions to combat any possible infections or imbalances in the body. Stress can also send a signal to the body that it needs to recuperate from a strenuous activity such as working out or when you have undergone surgery which then induces a response from the body to heal itself either through sleep or through the release of hormones and chemicals that are intended to heal the parts that may have been worn out. Stress, in good, healthy, and controlled amounts, actually helps the body in functioning better and in giving the body the capacity to respond well to the situation that has induced the release of stress hormones. It tells your body, “Hey, it’s time for a little extra action. Let’s get things done.”
When Stress Becomes Bad For You
While a small amount of stress may have some benefits that you can enjoy, these benefits are all for the short term. When stress happens too often and becomes all too consuming, it will do you more harm than good.
Chronic stress prevents you from having a logical and sound decision making process
Chronic stress is the body’s response to an extended amount of pressure that is induced by external factors where you feel as if you have lost control. This could be from constant exposure to physical harm or a relative feeling of being unsafe. It could also be from an emotional or psychological abuse that stems from not having enough time to recuperate from activities that you do on a regular basis, or it can also be derived from living in a toxic home and/or work environment from which you feel suppressed and constantly pressured into doing things that you would not be doing otherwise. Chronic stress is something that disables the body’s capacity to respond positively to a situation and it is incredibly detrimental to your health.
While acute stress is something that the body can easily heal from and can actually reap some benefits from, chronic stress is something that you should be wary about and something that you must proactively remove from your life.
How Stress Can Affect Your Health
Chronic stress can have a variety of negative effects on your health which can have long term effects. The feeling of constantly being under pressure and feeling out of control can affect your mental health and it can also have a crippling effect on your overall health.
Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease- due to the constant high levels of blood pressure and increased heart rate, your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases goes up as well. It can also increase your triglycerides level which can lead to blockage of your arteries. Some cardiovascular diseases that may be an effect of chronic stress are heart attacks, strokes, and abnormal heart rhythms.
Difficulty In Sleeping - because your body is out of balance due to the abnormal amount of hormones floating throughout your system, you may find it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep. The increased level of cortisol can cause sleep disruptions and can prevent you from enjoying the full benefits of sleep.
Stress can increase your chances of developing heart disease
The more stressed you are, the harder it will be to fall asleep
Stress increases your chances of developing mental illnesses
Degenerative Mental Disease - stress not only increases your probability of developing depression and anxiety, it can also lead to the development of degenerative mental disease such as Alzheimer's disease and dementia. According to astudy by Dr. Linda Mah, stress has been found to contribute to the degeneration and impairment of the functions of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex which can then lead to the development of these diseases.
Obesity- when you feel stressed, the body’s immediate response is to release cortisol which is also the hormone responsible for the fat-storing signal of the body which means that you retain more fat in your body. Constant stress also means that you tend to go for high fat and high carbohydrates food as a bid to increase your serotonin level, the body’s feel good hormone. This means that while your body is in fat-storing mode, you are also eating more fat and carbohydrates leading to rapid weight gain.
Stress induces the release cortisol, the body's fat storing hormone
The more stressed you are, the higher the chances of you becoming sick
Weakened Immune System - because the body is no longer able to heal itself and is also unable to cope with the constant pressure it is on, the immune system is heavily affected by it. The immune system is not able to properly send and address signals from the different parts of the body because of the imbalance that is also present in the body. Chronic stress may also lead some people to opt for unhealthy vices such as drinking and alcohol abuse which also negatively affects a person’s health drastically.
Ways To Combat Chronic Stress
To avoid the development of chronic stress, there are some things that you can do to help make yourself feel better and to help alleviate the symptoms of stress before they go out of hand.
Regular Workout - when youworkout regularly, your body is able to have a way of releasing tension in your body and it also provides a distraction from the things that causes you to worry. Working out also helps protect your brain from neurodegenerative diseases and it can also help in managing your stress. Working out increases your endorphins which is the body’s feel-good neurotransmitters which means that working out not only helps in making you look better, it is also helpful in making you feel better.
Meditation - doingmeditation is incredibly helpful in managing stress because it gives you time to reflect on the things that you have done and it gives you the opportunity to make peace with the things that you have not accomplished. It also allows you to have time to unwind and detach yourself from the things that have gone on in the day which then allows you to feel more at ease and at peace.
Eat Right- when your diet consists of healthy and energy-boosting food, the need to grab unhealthy snacks decreases significantly. Eating healthy also means that you are able to regain and maintain hormonal balance while at the same time reducing the negative impacts of stress.
Regular workouts can help you manage stress
Meditation is a great way of coping with stress
Eating right helps you maintain hormonal balance thus reducing the negative impact of stress
Starting a new hobby can help steer your attention away from your stressful thoughts
Develop A New Hobby - sometimes, doing something you love is one of the best ways to combat stress. Developing a new hobby can help you manage your stress levels and also offers an alternative for when you’re feeling drowned by the constant pressure that you feel around you. It gives you an avenue to unwind, to relax, and to focus on yourself wholly.
Focusing On You
Our lives will always be in perpetual motion and this non-stop action can truly be overwhelming. Finding the time to focus on ourselves will not only help us in determining which aspect of our lives needs improvement, it also helps us have time to care for ourselves and to help us recover from the taxing lives that we live. It also helps us to re-evaluate our lives and determine if we need to make certain changes in order to improve our lives for the better. Focusing on ourselves can truly make the difference when combatting stress. We only get this single chance to live our lives fully and joyfully, and seizing any opportunity that we have to make the most out of it should be one of our highest priorities.
So take a moment, step back, and take a deep breath. There’s more to life than what overwhelms you. Take time off for yourself because you need it and you most definitely deserve it.