8 in 10 Americans say they are stressed on a daily basis. Stress is an epidemic that impacts the lives of nearly 80% of the country’s population. And everyone deals with it differently. The issue is that stress can take quite a toll on a person’s mental and physical health and well being. You may not realize it, but stress can actually kill you! This article will cover how stress affects your body and mind; and also, the methods to overcome it.
Stress is a Healthy Response
A certain level of stress is needed for survival. Without it, we wouldn’t know when to flee from dangerous situations and wouldn’t have the internal motivation or pressure to succeed. It’s completely normal and healthy to have minor levels of stress when it comes to issues like work, parenting, and finances. There are two types of stress – chronic and acute.
Short-term stress in response to simple things like traffic, deadlines, or relationship issues.
Constant stress that is experienced over long periods of time in varying degrees.
Acute stress is relatively normal and relates back to that fight or flight response that our body’s naturally have to any dangerous situation. But when that stress morphs into something greater, like chronic stress, it impacts your ability to function and can take on an unhealthy element. So how do you know if the stress you’re feeling is healthy or not?
How Unhealthy Stress Affects You
There are some early warning signs of stress that you should be aware of. Stress affects not only your mind but also your body and your mood. If these warning signs go untreated, they can lead to further health complications, which will be covered later.
Stress Effects on the Body
- Fatigue/Inability to sleep
- Chest pain
- Muscle tension
- Upset stomach
Stress Effects on Behavior and Mood
- Changes in eating habits
- Inability to control emotions or anger
- Excessive use of drugs or alcohol
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of interest in activities or exercise
- Feeling overwhelmed
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it could mean that your stress level is reaching a dangerous level and your health is at risk. Here are some of the ways long-term stress can greatly impact your health and well-being.
It’s no real surprise that chronic and acute stress can both affect your heart health. The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart and blood vessels which are responsible for bringing oxygen and nourishment to the different areas of your body. Namely, the organs. When you’re under stress, these elements respond. During acute stress, your heart rate increases and your body releases stress hormones. These hormones then signal your blood vessels to pump more blood, elevating your blood pressure. Following most acute stress situations, a person’s levels return to normal. But chronic stress impacts the heart differently. That’s because people suffering from chronic stress are constantly experiencing a spike in both blood pressure and heart rate. The body is constantly releasing stress hormones. This puts you at risk for heart attack and stroke.
Your respiratory system controls your breathing. Have you ever felt stressed or anxious and found that your breathing was compromised? Are your breaths becoming shorter and faster rather than slow and relaxed as they usually are? Rapid breathing in itself is not a real health concern. But if you suffer from pre existing respiratory issues such as asthma, compromised breathing can be a life-threatening issue. Stress can impact the respiratory system in two ways. Acute stress has been said to trigger asthma attacks in people. This happens when the airway between the lungs and nose becomes constricted. Another possible result of stress is a panic attack. During panic attacks, people experience rapid breathing or hyperventilation.
The stomach and digestive system can be extremely sensitive and is responsible for controlling many different functions of the human body. Most people have experience a nervous stomach at least once in their lives. These feelings are often described as butterflies. Others feel nauseous or experience increased bowel movements when they are under extreme stress. Chronic stress can actually result in long-term gastrointestinal issues such as ulcers. Your esophagus may also be compromised due to stress. This is due to your response to stress, which is sometimes marked by overindulging or not eating enough. Some people refer to overeating while stressed as “stress eating”. This can result in indigestion and eventually, acid reflux, which can damage your esophagus and cause discomfort and pain.
What You Can Do
For some people, it’s impossible to eliminate stress from their lives completely. If this is the case, it’s important you find ways to cope with and reduce your stress. Managing your stress levels will help avoid the above mentioned health issues. Here are a few simple ways to help reduce your everyday stress and stay healthy.
- Exercise – Exercise has many proven benefits, one of which includes the release of “feel good” hormones known as endorphins. When you exercise, your body releases this hormone into your brain, creating a chemical reaction that elicits feelings of relaxation and calm, which can help combat feelings of stress and anxiety. Certain forms of exercise can also help release built up tension and act as an outlet for your stress.
- Find a hobby – Hobbies are things that you choose to do but are not required to do. The mere idea of your hobby being a choice gives you a sense of control and empowerment. This helps reduce feelings of panic or disorder, which can create stress. Choose a hobby that relaxes you and helps take your mind off of your daily concerns.
- Keep a journal – Sometimes, simply writing down your feelings, fears, worries, and stress triggers can help. Think of it as venting to a friend and purging your mind and body of negativity.
- Identify (and avoid) your stress triggers – If you know what triggers feelings of stress, try to avoid these situations, people or events. Some stressful situations are unavoidable but if there’s a stress trigger you know you can avoid, make an effort to do so. Does morning traffic cause you stress? Try leaving earlier to avoid the traffic or take a different mode of transportation. Small changes can make a big impact on your stress levels and overall health.
Do What’s Best for You
Avoiding and reducing stress sometimes means making life changes. It could mean changing jobs, moving, distancing yourself from certain people or taking up a new hobby. It’s important to listen to your body and do what’s best for you. If you’re noticing any physical or psychological symptoms of chronic stress, it’s time to make a change. Ignoring these warning signs could lead to further medical complications in the future.
Article Submitted By Community Writer