How stress affects your body and what to do about it
Stress is a common feeling most of us know all too well.
Often, it is easy to manage and cope with, but other times it can become overwhelming and leave us physically and mentally ill.
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of threat or demand. It is a natural defence mechanism that wants to protect you.
Stress can have its benefits. It keeps you alert and on your toes and sharpens your concentration. However, when it goes beyond a certain point, it can be highly debilitating. If you often find yourself overwhelmed, frazzled and unable to cope, it’s time to take action and get your nervous system rebalanced and back on track.
Here, we take a closer look at how stress affects your body and the steps you can take to combat its worst impacts.
HOW STRESS AFFECTS YOUR BODY
Stress symptoms affect not only your mind but your body and behaviour as well. Being able to recognise these symptoms will help you manage them more easily. The main symptoms of stress include headaches, muscle tension, chest pain and sleep problems. It can also lead to more severe long-term health issues if left untreated or unaddressed.
Stress hormones affect your respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and if you already have a breathing problem like asthma, stress can make it even harder to breathe. Your heart rate also increases under stress, leading to high blood pressure and the potential risk of a heart attack.
Your digestive system is affected by chronic stress and may increase your risk of developing chronic conditions, including Type-2 Diabetes. With heightened stress, you’re also more likely to have acid reflux due to a rise in stomach acid. And although stress doesn’t cause stomach ulcers, it does increase your risk of developing them. Stress stimulates the immune system, which can help avoid infections and heal wounds. However, over time, the stress hormones can weaken your immune system and leave you more susceptible to flu and common colds.
HOW STRESS AFFECTS YOUR MIND
Stress doesn’t just create physical symptoms, but mental ones as well, including restlessness, lack of motivation, anxiety and irritability.
The effects stress has on your mind can leave you feeling drained and deflated. From a lack of sleep or motivation to heightened anxiety, stress can soon take its toll and lead to depression and other mental health issues.
Memory loss, confusion and difficulty with concentration also come into play when you’re stressed. When stressed, people find it more challenging to create short term memories. For example, if you find yourself stressed during an event, it may be more challenging to remember what happened in the following days accurately.
HOW TO MANAGE STRESS
When functioning well, your nervous system can help you feel calm and relaxed, even when under pressure. However, if it’s not functioning correctly, it can lead to enhanced feelings of stress, anxiety or depression, all of which can impact your overall health and wellbeing.
When untreated or left to spiral out of control, stress can lead to serious health issues. There are several stress management strategies such as getting regular exercise, spending time with loved ones and setting time aside for hobbies.
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