How Does Stress Affect Your Health?
When your palms start to sweat and your heart begins to beat a little faster, it’s a sure sign that you’re under stress. Stress is a natural reaction and it can sometimes be a positive force when it motivates you to perform at a higher level. When it becomes chronic, however, stress can trigger inflammation and other reactions that can damage your health. Keep reading to learn about the signs of stress and its impact on your health as well as some tips for managing it.
What Are the Signs of Stress?
The human body is like a machine – all of its parts and systems work together in a specific way. Stress is something we all experience from time to time and the body responds by focusing your energy and your attention where it is most needed. When stress continues after the threat has dissipated, it can lead to a number of physical, emotional, and mental problems. Here are some of the most common symptoms of chronic stress:
- Low energy level
- Frequent headaches
- Upset stomach
- Nausea or vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Muscle aches and tension
- Sleep problems
- Rapid heartbeat
- Low libido
- Frequent colds or infections
- Sweaty hands and feet
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
In addition to these physical symptoms, stress can also lead to some psychological or emotional symptoms such as a short temper, low self-esteem, depression, and avoidance. Stress can also have an impact on your libido and, for men, may contribute to erectile dysfunction. In women, it can impact the menstrual cycle, leading to heavy, irregular, or painful periods.
How Does Stress Impact Your Wellbeing?
When it comes to the symptoms of stress, you are probably familiar with the aches, pains, and nervousness, but how does stress actually impact your health and wellbeing? When your body is stressed, it produces hormones that trigger your body’s “fight or flight” response – hormones like cortisol and noradrenaline. These hormones elevate your blood pressure, increase your heart beat, and enhance your focus to deal with the eminent threat. When the threat dissipates but the stress response continues, it can have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing. Here are some of the negative health effects of chronic stress:
- Increased fat storage, can contribute to weight gain or obesity
- Higher risk for heart attack or heart disease
- Insomnia and other sleep disorders
- Difficulty accessing or creating new memories
- Increased blood sugar and risk for diabetes
- Digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Increased blood pressure (hypertension)
- More frequent outbreaks and other skin problems
- Increased risk for stroke
- Reduced immunity and increased risk for infections
- Respiratory problems (such as asthma)
Now that you have a better understanding of how stress impacts your body and your health, you may be wondering what you can do to manage it. Managing your stress is easier than you might imagine, but you do need to be intentional about it. Here are some simple tips for reducing your stress:
- Identify and avoid your triggers. If you think about it, there are probably some specific things that cause you to become stressed. If you can identify your triggers, you’ll be better able to avoid them or, at the very least, you’ll know that they tend to cause you stress so you can be more mindful of how you deal with it.
- Take time out for yourself. Taking just thirty minutes a day to do something you enjoy (or to do nothing at all) can be extremely beneficial for your mental and physical health. Start your day with yoga or meditation – you could also try breathing exercises or just do something relaxing like reading a book.
- Delegate and learn to say no. Many people become stressed because they take on too much responsibility at work or at home. One of the best ways to manage your stress is to delegate tasks as much as you can and to avoid taking on more work if you are already overstretched.
- Get plenty of sleep. Most experts agree that 7 to 8 hours per night is the correct amount of sleep. In addition to getting enough sleep, make sure it is quality sleep by sticking to a bedtime routine, following a regular sleep schedule, and keeping your bedroom dark and quiet at night.
- Treat your body well. When you take care of your body it is going to work as it should and you’ll feel better overall. In addition to getting plenty of sleep, make an effort to follow a healthy and balanced diet – you should also try to get 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 to 5 times per week.
We all experience stress from time to time but, if you let it, it can wreak havoc on your body and cause some serious damage. If you’re already feeling the negative effects of stress, it isn’t too late to make a change! Take charge of your health and start utilizing some of the simple tips above to get your stress under control. You won’t regret it!