11 Ways Stress Affects Your Body!
At some point or the other we’ve all been there… feeling stressed, getting irritated at everyone, unable to concentrate, or just feeling like a hot mess.
Our moods, thoughts, attitudes and bodies may be affected by stress which can be a threat to our health. When we are placed under pressure the result maybe stress, which isn’t always a bad thing. Stress becomes bad when it’s chronic. Several factors like personal (changes in your life like a break up) or professional (unhealthy work environment) may attribute to the stress you experience.
Being under constant stress may wreak havoc on our health in multiple ways with a number of common ones outlined below:
- Weight Gain: Initially when you’re under stress you might think hey, at least that event led me to losing a few of those stubborn pounds. However, the stress might continue, but the weight loss won’t. When under long term stress, our bodies go into a fight or flight mode, which means we are just trying to survive. The most common side effect in this survival mode is to overeat because your body thinks that it’s burned calories while dealing with your stress, but it actually hasn’t. Stress also leads to increased cortisol levels (stress hormone) which will increase your insulin levels. This leads you to craving those sweet treats like chocolate or cookies because your blood sugar has dropped. Both overeating and all those sugary treats under stress will slowly lead to an increase in weight.
- Inflammation: is the body’s way of responding to a threat, which could be a virus, bacteria, emotional stressor or anything that your body deems to be foreign. Normally your body would release “cytokines” to attack the foreign bodies and then disappear, however if you’re under chronic stress, the cytokines get upregulated and become accustomed to the environment, no longer helping to reduce inflammation. This is when inflammation can cause further issues leading to health concerns like: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Cardiovascular Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and anxiety and depression.
- Hair Loss: You read that right, stress can contribute to hair loss in three (3) different ways. Telogen Effluvium (TE) – which is thinning of the hair normally in patches and towards the center of the scalp. It is uncommon to lose all hair and it is reversible, not permanently damaging the hair follicles. 2. Trichotillomania – aka the hair pulling disorder where you have the urge to pull out hair from all parts of your body including the scalp and eyebrows. This could cause additional stress as it is normally noticeable. 3. Alopecia Areata (AA) – is an autoimmune disease that attacks the hair follicles and can be triggered by stress. It can be lost in patches or across the entire scalp.
- Lowered Immunity: The longer your body is under stress, the more susceptible you are to getting things like a cold, the flu, or even a more serious disease. The white blood cells which are our main immune cells, are lymphocytes and phagocytes. Stress lowers your ability to fight off foreign invaders and suppresses the immune system, lowering the number of B & T Cells produced (lymphocytes). This unfortunately leaves it hard to fight off any infection before it takes hold.
- Digestive Issues: Have you ever found that when you are under stress eating either gives you a stomach ache, leaves you constipated or results in diarrhea? Well this is normal because your brain and your gastrointestinal system (GI) are connected. You don’t always have to have physical systems to cause issues throughout your body, physiological issues play just as large of a role. Next time your experiencing digestive issues, take a moment to think about your mindset and if your experiencing any stress that could be affecting your current state.
- Insomnia: Not all insomnia is related to stress, but several individuals who are under chronic stress develop it. Stress can cause problems trying to fall asleep and/or staying asleep as well as the quality of sleep that is achieved. This is because stress is hyperarousal, which will disrupt the balance of sleep and wakefulness. It is important to spend some time “winding down” before bed and setting a routine as a continued loss of sleep and stress can lead to long term issues.
- Lowered Sex Drive: When under chronic stress, the changes in your cortisol levels can actually impact your sex hormones, resulting in a lowered sex drive. This is because you are trying to “survive” and increase essential functions like blood flow and heart rate, while lowering non-essential functions like sex. Further, stress can affect the female menstrual cycle, leading to irregular, heavy and/or painful periods.
- Headaches: Are more likely to occur if you are under stress as stress is a common trigger of tension headaches and migraines. Headaches are related to your muscular system as tensing muscles to reduce injury or in times of stress, does not enable your body to relax. This tension can result in the onset of headaches.
- High Blood Sugar: When you are stressed out, it stops your body from releasing insulin and therefore releases more glucose. Insulin helps your body use glucose (sugar) from the foods that you eat like carbohydrates to obtain energy, while regulating your blood sugar levels. In contrast, when too much glucose is released your body is not capable of using it all and it is not a positive energy source, resulting in your blood sugar levels to continue to rise. This can have long term health concerns with the potential of Type II Diabetes.
- High Blood Pressure: Your bodies reaction to stress is to have a surge of hormones which will temporarily increase your blood pressure. This is when your heart begins to beat faster as your blood vessels narrow. Although there is no direct evidence that chronic high blood pressure is caused by stress, stress, can damage the blood vessels, arteries, heart and kidneys. We have to work on controlling our stress levels to avoid long term damage.
- Productivity: When you are under stress it can start affecting your ability to perform in the workplace as well as get things done around your home. It can affect your ability to meet deadlines, respond in a positive manner to coworkers and/or family and your time management skills. We all know how irritable we can get when we have a deadline and are trying to pull off that miracle to get it done in time, so start watching your triggers and how you are able to juggle multiple tasks, ensuring that you don’t take on too much!
Can you relate to one or multiple of the symptoms above? If you just said YES, this is your sign that you need to take your health and wellness into your hands and make yourself a priority! Stress can cause long term problems, so it’s time to take action now. Leave a COMMENT BELOW to let myself and other readers know how you address your stress!
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