How Stress Affects Your Body

Stress Affects Your BodyIn today’s busy world, it is quite common for people of all ages to experience stress in their lives. Small amounts of stress are actually good for us, in that they push us to work harder or accomplish various goals. However, when you experience chronic stress, it can be extremely detrimental to your health.

Mental Health

When you are experiencing stress, your brain sends signals to your adrenal glands to release various chemicals including epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol. As mentioned above, small amounts of these chemicals are actually beneficial. However, persistently high levels of them can lead to various mental complications.

These mental issues can include impaired memory, learning difficulties or severe depression. This is especially true if these types of problems run in your family. Furthermore, since you are in a constant state of anxiety and tension, you may have difficulty sleeping even when you feel tired.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches can occur periodically, or they can be chronic in nature. Unlike migraine headaches, which cause intense, throbbing pain, tension headaches cause a dull pain that is characterized by stiffness in the neck or shoulders. These headaches can be triggered by situations such as:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much stress
  • Chronic depression
  • Poor posture

Digestive Issues

Have you ever felt like there were butterflies fluttering around in your stomach? Some people say it feels like there are “knots.” Characters in romantic comedies often feel this way when they fall in love, but you may sometimes have knots in your stomach when you feel nervous (even if you’re not in love). This bodily condition is OK sometimes. However, if you frequently experience nervous stomach, it could be a sign of a very real physical problem. Extreme or chronic stress can cause a vast array of digestive issues including dry mouth, nausea, gas, indigestion, constipation and diarrhea.

Over time, these problems can increase your risk for such issues as ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and heartburn. The reason for all of this is because stress hormones encourage the release of stomach acid, which interferes with the normal functioning of your digestive system.

Cardiovascular Problems

While small amounts of stress can make your heart race and raise your blood pressure, large amounts of stress can lead to serious problems such as high cholesterol levels and narrowing of the arteries. These problems can increase your risk of heart attacks, heart disease and strokes.

What You Can Do

There are some steps you can take to relieve your stress and reduce the effects it has on your body. The key is to take some time out for yourself and participate in an activity that is relaxing or enjoyable for you. Try some of the following methods, and in no time at all, you should see a reduction in your stress levels:

  • Participate in light exercise or yoga
  • Try meditation or deep breathing
  • Cut down on alcoholic drinks and avoid smoking
  • Eat healthy
  • Talk with a good friend or close family member
  • Take a relaxing bubble bath
  • Go to a movie
  • Walk away when you are angry

When to Seek Help

Of course, there are times when you should seek help for your symptoms. If your depression seems to worsen no matter what you try, you may want to consider seeing a psychologist or counselor. Additionally, if you experience sharp chest pains or other painful physical symptoms, you need to see a physician immediately.

Stress is a common part of life and something we all have to deal with at one point or another. Unfortunately, extreme or chronic stress can lead to a vast array of emotional and physical problems. By following the useful tips listed above, you can significantly reduce your stress and avoid any detrimental effects to your body.

*Image courtesy of stock.xchng

Julian Kahn works at the Migraine Relief Center. They provide surgical treatments that reduce and eliminate pain for migraine sufferers.