Stress, in general, affects us all. There will always be times when we feel overwhelmed by how things are going. For instance, when you’re managing finances or when problems keep piling up. And sometimes, it can also get you in the good times—when you try to step out of your comfort zone and do something new.
While stress can be beneficial in certain situations, it can also be very harmful to your physical health. Your mental stress can manifest in your body, affecting your weight management and other bodily systems. We’ll explore more about it later. But first, let’s get a deeper understanding of stress and where it comes from.
What Is Stress?
Stress is basically your body’s reaction to dangerous circumstances, whether they are actual or only perceived as such. Every time you feel threatened, your body experiences a hormonal change that alerts you to respond quickly. This reaction is often referred to as the “fight-or-flight” response. When this happens, your heart and breathing rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure increase. All of this happens to protect your body from harmful situations.
However, our bodies can only manage small doses of stress. Prolonged stress or chronic stress will bring ill consequences. Let’s take a closer look at how it affects your body.
The Effects of Chronic Stress on Your Body
Elevated stress levels can take a toll on your overall health. You may experience various symptoms, such as headaches, anxiety, depression, insomnia, etc.
To give you a better overview, here’s what chronic stress can do to your body:
Nervous and Endocrine Systems
These systems are in charge of the “fight or flight response.” Your nervous system, especially the central nervous system (CNS), is the one responsible for signaling the adrenal glands to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol every time you get into stressful situations. These hormones speed up your heartbeat, increase your glucose levels, and send blood rushing to your muscles, heart, and other vital organs—the parts that require it most in an emergency.
When the stressors don’t go away, your nervous system will persist to trigger physical reactions. And this continuous activation of the nervous system can have a negative impact on other systems in your body.
Respiratory and Cardiovascular Systems
Chronic stress can have a significant impact on both the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
During the stress response, your respiratory rate increases to deliver oxygen-rich blood to your body the fastest way possible. As a result, you tend to experience rapid and shallow breathing. If you have asthma and other respiratory problems, stress can make it even harder for you to breathe.
On the other hand, your cardiovascular system ensures other bodily systems function during stress. The heart pumps faster, and the blood vessels narrow to increase the oxygen delivered to your muscles and give you more strength to respond. This causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, which can pose risks of heart attack and stroke.
With all the rush of hormones, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing when you’re stressed out, you’ll feel it in your stomach. And oftentimes, you’ll get acid reflux or heartburn. In addition, since stress also affects how food passes through your body, you may experience constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and even vomiting.
But does stress cause weight gain or loss? You may ask. Well, it depends on the person and the situation. Usually, people may turn to “stress-eating” and have poor food choices due to the fact that the cortisol increase stimulates your fat and carbohydrate metabolism, making you crave sweet, fatty, and salty food. Meanwhile, others may miss meals and lose their desire to eat when the adrenaline keeps them going in their activities.
When you’re stressed out, your muscles contract to protect themselves from harm. And if you’re constantly under stress, muscles might not get a chance to relax. As a result, you may feel back and shoulder pain, headaches, and general discomfort.
Stress boosts the immune system, which is beneficial in urgent situations. It can help heal wounds and prevent infections. However, if you’re under stress for a long time, the stress hormones will weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s ability to fight off intruders. As a result, you’ll be more prone to infections and viral diseases like the flu and the common cold. Moreover, it can also prolong the recovery time from an injury or sickness.
Stress can have a significant impact on the reproductive system as it can cause changes in hormone levels. Besides losing the drive to engage in intercourse, it can also affect your organs.
For males, stress can suppress testosterone production, making it more difficult for them to have an erection and maintain it. In addition, it increases the risk of infection in their reproductive organs.
For females, high-stress levels can cause menstrual cycle irregularities and more painful periods. Stress can also magnify the physical symptoms of menopause and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Ways To Help Yourself Deal With Stress
Even while lowering your stress levels might seem impossible on some days, there are still ways to help you manage it. Here are a few:
1. Adopt healthy lifestyle habits: Exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and eat healthy foods.
2. Practice relaxation techniques: Take time to relax and practice deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, and mindfulness meditation. You can also use medical marijuana that you can get from a safe dispensary.
3. Take time for yourself: Take a break from work and other obligations to do something for yourself. Relive your childhood dreams and try to do something you’re passionate about. It would also help if you see the world outside, travel, and practice nature therapy.
4. Talk to someone: Release your baggage to trusted people—may it be your family or friends.
5. Stay organized: Make lists, use a calendar, and take time to plan ahead.
6. Reach out for help: If everything above doesn’t work anymore, you must seek out support from a medical professional.
In conclusion, mental stress can have positive and negative effects on our bodies and overall physical health. It can affect our weight, behavior, and bodily systems that help us function.
Additionally, given that everyone can be stressed out at any time, it’s crucial to recognize when it’s becoming too much and learn some ways to manage it. We hope this blog helps you restore your balance and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If you’re looking for home exercises to incorporate into your routine, visit us here.
Image Source: pexels