Modern day life is without a doubt complex and we all experiences stress on different levels regardless of our background.
What is Stress?
Stress is how the brain and body perceive and react to challenges in our daily lives such as a test coming up, a deadlines at work, bad news etc. The brain and body may react to these challenges physically, mentally and emotionally.
There are two types of stress - Fight or flight vs Chronic
1. Dangerous situations trigger our body’s fight or flight response for us to either fight or flee the danger. In which our brain goes into full survival mode, pulse rises, breathing gets quicker, muscles begin to tense, and your brain uses more oxygen to increase alertness. This a very short stress and protects us
On the other hand, there is chronic stress. Chronic stress puts pressure on our body and mind for a long time.
2. Chronic stress affect our physical health and mental health and is very damaging. Below are 5 ways that stress affects our body and mind:
1. Stress damages your Mental health
Chronic stress can be caused by many factors such as financial, personal or family problems. Stress increases the stress hormone cortisol which at high levels lowers serotonin and dopamine. The symptoms are depression, anxiety, learning difficulties, concentration and sleeping difficulties.
2. Stress Weakens Our Immune System
Chronic stress is terrible for your immune system, weakening it and reducing the body’s ability to respond to invaders such as bacteria and viruses as well as many other illnesses.
People who have chronic stress on average get sick more often than others.
3. Stress Negatively Affect Our Physical Health
When under fight or flight stress our muscles tense up to protect your body and prevent injuries, however, they will release the tension when you’re in a relaxed state.
With Chronic Stress your muscles do not have a chance to relax when you’re under constant stress. This can cause headaches, migraines, and body aches.
Here are some symptoms of stress affecting your body:
- High Blood Pressure – Stress hormones can narrow your blood vessels which can raise your blood pressure. Increases the chances of hypertension which can lead to a heart attack, stroke and other complications.
- Stomach Ache – Stress can negatively affect your digestive system too, leading to nausea, stomach aches, diarrhea, and other stomach problems.
- Insomnia – Stress will disrupt your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep which can lead to insomnia. Insomnia leads to weight gain, high blood pressure, risk of heart disease and poor immune function.
- Headaches – Stress can trigger headaches and migraines.
- High Blood Sugar – under stress your liver will produce extra sugar (glucose) than normal into your bloodstream. For a consistent period, it will increase your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
4. Stress Can Affect Your Sex Drive and Reproductive System
For men chronic stress affects libido, as it lowers testosterone levels and can lead to impotence.
For women, chronic stress can negatively affect menstrual cycles. It can lead to irregular and painful periods and also increase the symptoms of menopause.
5. Stress Can Impact Our day to day Habits
When under stress you may start to engage in behaviours you normally would not do such as overeating or undereating.
You may start using substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs to escape and relax. This over time leads to addiction and substance abuse disorders.
What Can We Do To Fight Chronic Stress?
Here are some ways we can manage your daily stress:
- Exercise – Exercising can help our body stay fit and releases endorphins happy chemicals which relax us and improve our mood.
- Healthy Food – Eating nutrient dense food will improve our mood and lower stress levels.
- Social activities – Spend time more time with family and friends. We are social creatures and regular socialising can be very healing for us.
- Hobbies – Regular time on hobbies and interests that help you relax.
- Meditation – Studies have shown daily meditation can reduce stress, anxiety, depression and many things. If meditation is not for you, try yoga and tai-chi.
- Changing our Perception – Changing the way we look at a stressful event can massively help us, a good start would be when something stressful is happening is to accept it and look for a solution rather than resist it and get angry or frustrated by it. Easier said than done I know but this will work with practise.
Chronic Stress has a very damaging affect on our physical health and mental well being. Practice the methods listed above to fight the stress and always try your best keep a positive mindset.