We all feel stressed from time to time, and though a slight amount of stress is tolerable, an excess of it can affect the body. Stressful events, like an imminent work deadline, or mental concerns, like worrying constantly about job loss, can activate a stream of stress hormones that cause physiological effects. Any experience that builds stress can increase the heartbeat, make you breathe faster, tenses up the muscles, and make sweat droplets appear.
Our Body Can Deal With Stress Physiologically
When we feel stress, the nervous system directs our bodies to discharge stress hormones consisting of adrenaline, cortisol, and noradrenaline. These generate physiological changes to help us face the threat or risk that approaches us. This is known as the “stress response” or the “fight-or-flight” reaction.
These hormones raise the alertness of your brain, cause tense muscles, and elevates your pulse. In the short term, such reactions are useful as they can help you manage stressful situations and is your body’s way of safeguarding it.
Stress can in fact be positive, as it is useful in keeping us vigilant, focused, and encouraged about the task to be performed. Generally, when the pressure recedes, the body readjusts and we begin to feel relaxed and composed again. But when stress persists frequently and for a long duration, or when the negative thought process suppresses our capacity to cope, then issues start to crop up. The constant stimulation of the nervous system – feeling the “stress response” debilitates the body and results in wear and tear.
Effects Of Stress On The Body
As stress levels rise, the respiratory system becomes instantly affected. We are more likely to breathe harder and faster for speedily distributing oxygen-supplied blood across our body. Though it may not be a matter of concern for many of us, it can be an issue for individuals with asthma who may experience shortness of breath and strive to inhale adequate oxygen. It can also result in rapid and shallow breathing, where the slightest air is taken in, which can result in hyperventilation. This is highly possible if someone is disposed towards panic attacks and anxiety.
Chronic or constant stress felt over a prolonged stretch of time, can present permanent heart and blood vessel problems. The persistent and continuous rise in heart rate and the raised levels of stress hormones and blood pressure can be detrimental for the body. This long-term sustained stress can escalate the risk for heart attack, stroke, or hypertension.
Stress Cause Great Damage To Our Immune Systems
Stress can take its toll on our immune systems. Cortisol released within our bodies stifles the immune system and inflammatory pathways, making us more vulnerable to chronic inflammatory conditions and infections. Our capacity to combat illness is then minimized.
Affects The Musculoskeletal System
When the body is overworked and stressed, muscle tension occurs. Recurrent muscle tension can lead to body aches, and when it originates in the head, neck, and shoulders, it can lead to tension headaches and migraines.
Adversely Impacts The Endocrine System
The endocrine system is necessary for development, modulating mood, tissue function, reproductive mechanisms, and also metabolism. The hypothalamus situated within the brain plays an integral part in connecting the endocrine system with the nervous system.
Signals of stress originating from the hypothalamus activate the release of the stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) followed by the liver producing blood sugar (glucose) to replenish you with energy for coping with the stressful condition. A maximum number of people tend to reabsorb the additional blood sugar after the lowering of stress, but for some individuals there lies a high risk of diabetes.
Stress Can Have Undesirable Gastrointestinal Effects
Stress can influence the brain-gut interaction and may stimulate bloating, pain, and various gut distress. The gut contains hundreds of millions of neurons that are in regular communication with the brain – which explains why we feel “butterflies” in the stomach. Moreover, the gut is occupied by millions of bacteria which can impact gut health as well as brain health – the capacity to think and influence emotions.
Stressed individuals may experience heartburn or acid reflux, particularly if they have changed their eating habits to eat much more or much less than normal. This can also happen if you increase your intake of sugary and fatty foods. Stress or exhaustion can even give rise to severe or regularly arising heartburn pain. A rare condition of spasms within the esophagus can be triggered by acute stress that can be easily confused with having a heart attack.
Besides, the capacity of our intestines to assimilate nutrients from our food may be decreased. Stress can make stomach discomfort, bloating, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea felt more easily.
Generates Problems Within The Reproductive Systems
Problems related to our reproductive systems can also arise from stress. Chronic stress may affect the production of sperm and testosterone in males. Due to stress, the body releases the hormone cortisol, which if released in abundance, can impact the normal biochemical working of the male reproductive system. Ongoing stress can also result in erectile dysfunction or impotence.
Women too can experience alterations in their menstrual cycle, more painful periods, and heightened premenstrual symptoms. Stress can even impact the reproductive plans of a woman, can negatively affect her capacity to conceive, her pregnancy health, and also her postpartum adjustment.
Stress Exhibits Mental And Emotional Symptoms
Stress also has an important bearing on our emotional and mental wellness. It is nothing unusual to experience mood changes in our day-to-day lives, but when we become overstressed, we feel exhausted, have mood changes, or experience more irritability than usual. Stress can lead to hyperarousal, which refers to a state where we may find it difficult to fall or remain asleep and undergo anxious nights. This hinders your focus, memory, and learning. Researchers have associated sleep deficiency with chronic health issues, depression, and also obesity.
The manner in which we handle stress has an indirect impact on our wellness. Under duress, people may resort to more detrimental habits like consuming excessive alcohol, smoking, or taking drugs to combat stress. But such modes of behavior are not appropriate and only result in greater health concerns and harm to our personal well-being.
Stress Management Techniques
Learn various stress management techniques that keep your anxiety and tension under check. A little bit of stress is a matter of routine in our lives and helps us to remain alert, energetic, inspired, thrilled, and focused. Initiate positive activities to channelize it effectively and you can discover yourself to be achieving higher, performing at an optimum, and feeling better.
Practice beneficial strategies to moderate your stress responses by practicing physical workouts, keeping robust social support, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and getting sufficient, and restorative sleep every night. These aspects enhance your mental and physical health and constitute vital building blocks for healthy living. More so, all this keeps your body stress-free, boosts your immunity, and improves the way you respond to stress.