Everyone encounters stress at one point in life. Whether you are a student studying for your finals, an adult trying to pay your bills, or just feeling down without any probable cause; stress is always there lurking in the corner. It is an emotion that we do not want to feel but inevitably comes with living in this world.
Stress not only affects our minds but our bodies too. Here are some ways in which stress affects our bodies.
Effects On Our Muscles
The reflex action of stress is the tensing of muscles, a way for our body to protect against injury and pain. But constant tensing of the muscles can lead to the taunting body, which can cause other stress-related problems.
Effects On Our Lungs
Stress affects our respiratory system by making us breathe harder. Although this doesn’t really affect most people, those with asthma or lung disease can actually have trouble breathing. Acute stress, for example, news of the death of a loved one can lead to asthma attacks. Rapid breathing from the stress can actually lead to panic attacks.
Effects On Our Heart
Acute stress such as deadlines, exams, or being stuck in traffic, etc. can lead to an increase in heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscle. Blood vessels dilate and increased blood is pumped to the organs causing increased blood pressure. This is short term and returns to the normal state in a while.
Chronic stress causes a consistent increase in the heart rate, elevated levels of stress hormones and blood pressure. This long term ongoing stress can cause an increase in the risk of hypertension, heart attack or stroke.
When our body is stressed it releases “stress hormones” cortisol and epinephrine from the adrenal glands. These hormones help release glucose from the liver, which gives us energy for a “fight or flight response”. Elevated levels of glucose, especially in vulnerable people, can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
Stress can lead to inconsistent diet patterns. Eating more can cause heartburn or acid reflux while the stress itself actually increases the pain felt during heartburn. Stress may also cause “butterflies in the stomach”, nausea or pain. If chronic, it may also lead to ulcers. In the intestines, it may cause diarrhea or constipation.
For males, stress may affect testosterone or sperm production, or even lead to erectile dysfunction. In women, it may cause irregular menstrual cycles or may lead to more “PMS” symptoms such as fluid retention, mood swings, and cramping.
Overall with chronic stress, our body starts to deteriorate. The constant wear and tear affect our health because of being on edge constantly. Of course, it isn’t possible to completely remove stress from our lives; however, we can work on managing it. Exercise in any form helps remove pent up tension and promotes relaxation. Yoga especially is a great way to relax. Lying down and unwinding with soft music in the background can help remove the tension in muscles. Spending more family time, talking to a loved one about your worries and problems, and indulging in your favorite activities is also good for managing stress.
Remember life doesn’t get easier; we just have to get stronger. Adopting the right attitude can help convert negative stress to positive stress. Because stress doesn’t kill us, our reaction to it does.