What is stress?
Stress has almost become an unavoidable part of modern life. Unless you quit your job or drop out of school, cut all relationship ties, and decide to live in a cave out in the wilds, chances are you are going to have to deal with one kind of stress or another .
And a little stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, without it, most people wouldn’t feel the urge to get things done, do new things, or carry out their goals.
But it is when stress gets out of control that the real trouble begins.
So What Is Stress Exactly?
Stress is your body’s way of dealing with the outside dangers and challenges life can throw your way.
If you are walking down a dark, deserted street, your body will release hormones and chemicals that will make you more alert to your surroundings, and ready to flee to safety at a moment’s notice.
If you have an important project due in the morning, and you are going to have to stay up all night to finish it, the same chemicals and hormones will keep you awake and alert, and give you the extra boost you need to work faster.
In certain situations, a little stress is okay. But you can have too much of a good thing.
When Stress Gets Out of Control
When you are dealing with one demand or challenge after another, it can leave your body in a high state of stress. And those chemicals and hormones your body releases to help you deal with challenging situations can actually be harmful in large, prolonged doses. And, as a result, you can experience all sorts of physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral problems.
Some of the physical symptoms can include headaches, chest pains, diarrhea, sleep disorders, skin breakouts, fatigue, and high blood pressure.
The psychological symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, depression, forgetfulness, and poor concentration.
Stress can also be blamed for many relationship problems. When you are feeling tense, anxious, or overwhelmed, you are much more likely to yell at your spouse, snap at your children, demean your coworkers, or take offense at innocent comments made by friends. And all of this can put a strain on those important relationships.
So, what is stress? It is a condition that can affect every area of your life, from your physical health, to your relationships with friends and family, to your work life. That is why learning to manage stress is a critical part of leading a healthy, happy life.
How Does Stress Affect Your Health?
We know how stress can affect us mentally and emotionally. It can make us feel anxious and overwhelmed. It can make our tempers short and cause us to feel depressed. But how does stress affect your health?
When you are feeling stressed, certain stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, are released into your system. This is fine in short doses. It can even be beneficial. But if your stress is prolonged, and these hormones keep getting pumped into your symptoms, they can actually cause damage to your body and your health.
It’s common knowledge that too much stress can negatively affect your blood pressure. But it can impact your health in other negative ways, too.
Your Immune System
When you are under stress, your body might shut down or suppress some of your systems. This is its way of giving you fewer things to worry about. For example, many women in stressful situations might stop having a menstrual cycle for a month or two, or even longer.
Unfortunately, prolonged stress can also partly suppress your immune system, which can make you susceptible to illnesses and infections.
People who are stressed out often end up getting sick or run down. Which makes it even harder to deal with daily challenges, and makes them feel even more stressed.
Digestive problems are common in those under extreme stress. Those feeling stressed shouldn’t be surprised to find themselves suffering from diarrhea, heartburn, or indigestion.
People dealing with stressful situations, like a divorce or breakup, the loss of a loved one, or a job they hate, often find themselves eating more and putting on weight. Many often assume this is because people sometimes eat more to comfort themselves. But, while this can be true, there is also a physical reason for the weight gain.
Stress causes hormonal changes in the body. And these hormonal changes can actually increase your appetite. You eat more not just because you are feeling sad, but because your body is telling you that you need to eat more.
Stress can also cause other problems, like insomnia, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and erratic mood swings. It can make it hard for you to concentrate at work, and even harder for you to remember important dates and appointments. It can also make skin conditions, like acne, eczema, and psoriasis even worse.
So how does stress affect your health? Potentially, it can affect it in all sorts of negative ways. That is why learning to manage and relieve your stress should be your top priority.