Stress and Effects on your Body


Posted on October 25th

Stress!

In some way our lives are all full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands….whether it be from work or home life. For a lot of people Stress starts to become a way of life. Its not always a bad thing-in small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you’re constantly running in “stress” mode, your health and wellbeing will start to pay the price.

If you constantly feel frazzled and overwhelmed, it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back into balance. 

The Body’s Stress Response

 When you perceive a threat, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rouse the body for emergency action.

Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus – preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.

Common external causes of stress

Not all stress is caused by external factors. Stress can also be self-generated:

  • Major life changes
  • Work
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Financial problems
  • Being too busy
  • Children and family

Common internal causes of stress

Not all stress is caused by external factors. Stress can also be self-generated:

  • Inability to accept uncertainty
  • Pessimism
  • Negative self-talk
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Perfectionism
  • Lack of assertiveness

Many health problems are caused or exacerbated by stress, including:

  • Pain of any kind
  • Heart disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema

Unhealthy ways of coping with stress

These coping strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but they cause more damage in the long run:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
  • Using pills or drugs to relax
  • Sleeping too much
  • Procrastinating
  • Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
  • Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)

You can increase your resistance to stress by strengthening your physical health.

  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Make time for exercise, at least three times per week. Nothing beats exercise for releasing pent-up stress and tension….plus it becomes “you” time!
  • Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day. Avoid “Processed” foods like the devil and get variety in your diet.
  • Avoid caffeine and sugar. The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By removing the coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind. 
  • Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.

Cortisol is an important hormone in the body, secreted by the adrenal glands and involved in the following functions and more:

  • Proper glucose metabolism
  • Regulation of blood pressure
  • Insulin release for blood sugar maintanence
  • Immune function
  • Inflammatory response

Cortisol has been named “the stress hormone” because it’s also secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects:

  • A quick burst of energy for survival reasons
  • Heightened memory functions
  • A burst of increased immunity
  • Lower sensitivity to pain
  • Helps maintain homeostasis in the body

Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to have negative effects, such as:

  • Impaired cognitive performance
  • Suppressed thyroid function
  • Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
  • Decreased bone density
  • Decrease in muscle tissue
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
  • Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacksstrokes, the development of metabolic syndrome, higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems!