How Stress Could Affect Our Body and Health?

In the field of health, stress is often an important topic. But often, what we’re told about it is slightly oversimplified: Avoid stress, it’s bad for your well-being. Although this isn’t a bad advice, this is still an overwhelmingly vague idea. It is simply hard to know where we should start. We should understand what happens to our body when it’s stressed out to know what we need to do in times of elevated stress.

Our body could react instantaneously to stress and it may quickly go into the fight-or-flight mode. It means that our body is handling stress by avoiding or confronting it. There are other immediate physiological changes that could happen when we experience stress:

1. Increased blood pressure, breath rate and heart rate.

2. Reduced sexual function and growth rate

3. Higher requirements for energy through increased conversion of fats and glucose.

4. Concentration and memory is boosted temporarily, but will be reduced within a short span of time.

5. Increased release of endorphin, adrenaline and cortisol

6. Decreased pain signals

7. Weakened immune system to conserve energy

8. More energy is diverted to skeletal muscles for physical movements, causing smooth muscles, including the digestive system to slow down.

These physical changes shouldn’t pose no harm to our body on a short term basis; because we could be able to handle specific situation better while we are stressed out somewhat. However, constant stress may trigger multiple health risks in the long term. We should be aware of far-reaching, long-term effects caused by stress. Chemicals that our body releases during stressful times may affect our physical systems, triggering many health issues:

• Fatigue: Our body requires a larger amount of energy when it’s stressed out. Whether it is imagined or real, our body will produce more energy when dealing with stress. Consequently, a long period of stress could leave us feel burned out rather quickly.

• More susceptible to sickness: When our mind is stressed, our body diverts some of the energy away from our immune system. This explains why people who experience are more likely to get flu and cold. In more serious cases, they could also be affected by rheumatoid arthritis and allergies. Also, people with weaker immune system are unable to effectively fight off potentially cancerous cells, leading to higher risk for cancer and tumor.

•     Digestion: As explained above, more energy is diverted from smooth muscles, such as in our digestive system, to skeletal muscles to support physical movements. During stress, our digestive system could run much slower and this may lead to constipation, ulcers and irritable bower syndrome. Our digestive system is packed with nerve endings and they are also connected closely to other parts of the body. Digestion systems could be quite hard on our overall vitality and health, if takes place for a longer period of time.

•     Cardiovascular disease: Our whole cardiovascular systems would work harder when we experience stress. This could cause blood vessels and other parts of our cardiovascular system to wear out much more quickly. Blood fat level also increases to improve energy conversion, but it could eventually increase the risk for atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.

•     Reduced concentration and memory: Stress could boost our concentration and memory for a short period. But eventually, the brain area that controls concentration and memory could lose its ability to favourably respond to stress-related hormones. This could lead to reduced concentration and memory, even lower than on normal people.

•     Diabetes: Pancreas releases more glucagon when stress occurs. This could increase the levels of blood sugar and lower the insulin production. Insulin controls sugar storage in our body and people with stress are more likely to have insulin resistance. People with prolonged stress are more vulnerable to Type 2 Diabetes, which is caused by serious insulin resistance.

•     Aging: Long-term stress may decrease the life span of our cells and speeds up the overall aging process.

•     Muscular tension: Our body sends more energy to skeletal muscles when our mind undergoes constant stress. But, because we often don’t move much during stressful periods, energy may stagnate, causing chronic muscle tensions. Other symptoms, such as persistent neck or back pain may also develop.

It is important to be aware of likely symptoms of stress, due to its potentially damaging effects. The effect of stress is more than just on the emotional and mental level, it also leaves very real physical responses. This should help us in countering the effects of stress to take good care of our health. An important first step is by recognizing when it happens and things that we are stressing about. Although this sounds simple, it’s often a very difficult thing to do.

Stress is often a regular part of our life that could prove to be a challenge to acknowledge that it’s there. Our body couldn’t easily tell the difference between perceived situation of stress and the actual stress. It means, we could immediately experience symptoms when we imagine a stressful situation.  Although anxiety, fatigue, irritability and increased heart rate are called as common causes of stress, each person may respond differently. Each individual may need to know their own unique response.

Stressed mind may run like a runaway train and it is oblivious to the amount energy it is burning. We should recognize when it is happening and we can get good perspectives on the stress level by taking some time out. In short, we need to give our body a break.

Here are things we should do:

•     Exercise and use natural medicines: Even light exercise could help us to temporarily forget stressful matter, giving our mind a moment of respite. We could do something we enjoy, such as playing a sport, reading book, playing exciting games or simply go for a walk. Distraction is a good way to get ourselves from the stressful mindset, while releasing pent up energy and stress. Specific category of natural medicines called adaptogens may help us adapt better to stress by making hormone levels more balanced.

•     Avoid stimulants: Caffeine and other stimulating substances can increase the activity of our nervous system. Excessive usage of computer may also saturate our mind, making it more difficult to relax. We should what we enjoy while taking care of our responsibilities. Whatever we do, we should make sure that we always do enjoyable and relaxing things. Eradicating stress isn’t just about eliminating stressful activities, but also about having fun.

•     Talk to others: Those who rarely talk to other about their experience could be confines in their own little worlds. We should to people we trust about major stressors in our life. This helps us to see things more clearly on how to deal with things that increase our stress.