The Effects of Stress on Our Bodies and Ways to Manage It
The effects of stress on our bodies
The effects of stress on our bodies can be both good and bad, depending on the situation. Healthline defines stress as “a situation that triggers a particular biological response. When you perceive a threat or a major challenge, chemicals and hormones surge throughout your body.” Although small amounts of momentary stress can even be beneficial to our body and productivity, being chronically stressed out day in and day out can take a serious toll on our physical and mental health.
In this post, we will discuss each of the effects of stress on the body. We will go into the origins of stress to better understand it, and will finally wrap up with ways to reduce the stress you experience in your life.
Without further ado, let’s get started with the symptoms!
When we’re stressed, the muscles that control our breathing can tense up. This often leads to shortness of breath.
Stress can cause tension headaches. On top of that, it can intensify existing headaches.
When we’re stressed, we’re often overcome with a strange restlessness. This can quickly turn into anxiety if we’re not careful.
Being stressed can make us more touchy about a lot of things. Angry outbursts are not uncommon when interacting with over-stressed people.
The aforementioned restlessness and overall feeling of discomfort which stress can bring on can make us look for food as a source of comfort. However, it also leads many people to just avoid eating altogether.
Stress can often give us that “I’m so overwhelmed” feeling. If we’re up to our neck in work or spend too long in a dangerous situation, we can quickly start feeling like we’ll never “get on top of it.”
All that anxiety and restlessness builds up. If left unchecked, it can lead to sleep issues which then contributes to more stress in a vicious cycle.
Stress negatively affects the digestive system as well. It can lead to stomach problems like nausea or stomachaches.
High blood pressure
One of the effects of stress is that it tightens the blood vessels. This can lead to an increased level of blood pressure in the body.
On top of giving us anxiety, chronic stress can also get us down and dampen our mood. If left unchecked, you risk developing full-blown depression.
Another effect of stress on the digestive system is that it causes an increase in the production of stomach acid. This often leads to heartburn or, if you’re already suffering from it, makes it worse.
Lack of motivation
Ironically enough, being over-stressed can lead to a lack of motivation. This is counter-productive, as it means that the overwhelming demands the world is placing on your are not being taken care of, thus causing more stress.
Stress hormones affect your heart by making it pump faster in order for your blood to reach your vital organs faster. Although this is useful in a dangerous or demanding situation, having constant heart palpitations is not.
Origins of stress
Although there are more effects that stress has on the body than what we’ve outlined above, if we kept going an entire book’s space wouldn’t be enough. Rather, let’s take a look at the origins of stress. This will help us better understand what causes stress in our own lives. If we understand stress better, it will be easier to find ways to manage or even eliminate it.
Natural or manmade disasters
Whether we’re talking about a flood, earthquake, or a nuclear reactor explosion, disasters cause us to feel threatened. This stresses us out and makes our bodies suffer the effects of stress. These are also tricky as there’s no real way to avoid them.
Being the victim of a crime
Getting robbed, having your house burglarized, being assaulted—these are all traumatic events. Although these are not as common as some of the other origins we list here, they can cause some of the worst forms of stress in existence. Be careful and pay attention to safety.
Soldiers suffer unheard of amounts of stress while deployed. Feeling like your life is constantly hanging by a thread is no fun way to spend an afternoon, much less weeks or months. If you’re considering a career in the military, be warned that it can be quite stressful
Going through an illness
Illnesses can bring either acute or chronic stress, depending on their nature. Fearing for our health makes us anxious and worried, which in turn increases our stress levels. Ironically enough, this can also make our bodies suffer further due to the effects of stress.
Poor work-life balance
This is perhaps the most obvious cause of stress. In our productivity-obsessed culture, it’s easy to focus so much on work that you neglect other aspects of your life. Feeling like you’re always working with no time for leisure is a very real stressor.
Working in a dangerous profession
Although, yes, being in the military is one dangerous profession, there are plenty of others. If your work involves you constantly putting your own life at risk, it can become a serious stressor. Unfortunately, many don’t have any other choice than to join these professions.
Being in an accident
If you find yourself in an accident, that can stress you out big time. Think about it, your health is probably in danger, you don’t know what’s going on. Accidents can cause us a lot of anguish both physically and psychologically.
Especially if you’re young and still dependent, having an uncomfortable family situation can be a big source of stress. Toxic relationships, in general, can stress you out quite a bit. Keep an eye out for these types of situations in your life.
We’ve looked at the effects that stress can have on our bodies. After that, we’ve identified the origins of stress in our lives. Finally, we’re going to look at all the ways we can manage stress.
After reading about all of the effects of stress and how harmful they can be, no doubt you’re keen to learn ways to deal with it. However, you’ll notice that a lot of the options we offer have to do with just exposing yourself less to stressful situations.
Once you’re stressed, it’s difficult to shake it unless you remove yourself from the stressors. Let’s take a look at the options available to us when it comes to managing stress.
You don’t have to meet everyone’s expectations. Trying hard to please everyone in your life can quickly turn into a stressful hell for you. If you feel overwhelmed by the demands of work or even those close to you, try to make this clear in a diplomatic way.
Exercise is an amazing method of stress relief. Anyone who’s ever exercised can tell you how much “lighter” they feel after a good workout. Whether you’re going to the gym or squeezing in the odd home training, regular exercise is one of the sure-fire ways to de-stress.
Meditation is one of the best forms of stress relief available. Although it can sometimes seem like a transitory fad, it’s benefits have been proven and documented more than once. Sitting quietly and doing nothing can calm you down and greatly reduce the effects of stress on your body.
Take a break
In our productivity-obsessed culture, it can almost feel like a sin to take a little break from work, but it’s necessary. A lot of stress, as we’ve mentioned, comes from poor work-life balance. As such, finding time to spend on hobbies or just having fun is key to a life with less stress.
If you frequently find yourself feeling overwhelmed with stress, perhaps you need to limit the number of stressors in your life. Are you working too much? Are you taking on more obligations than you can realistically handle? Are you pressuring yourself too harshly? Ask yourself these questions and see which stressors you can reduce or even remove.
Discard bad habits
Although activities like smoking and drinking seem to help reduce stress, they actually contribute to it in the long run. Try ridding your life of negative, addictive behaviours and focus on dealing with stress in a healthy way.
Live by your values
Finally, a lot of stress can be caused not by us doing too much, but by doing things out of sync with our values. Of course, not everything we do can be completely synchronized with our authentic selves, but filling our lives with meaningful activities that are important to us can go a long way to reduce our levels of stress.
Hire a virtual assistant
CEOs, speakers, coaches, and consultants can be some of the most stressed people out there. They’re constantly exposing themselves to stressful situations and have their hands filled with work. Hiring a virtual assistant is a great way to take some of that pressure off of yourself. It also leaves you with more time to practice other forms of stress relief we’ve mentioned here.
And there we have it. We’ve laid out the effects of stress on the body, investigated its origins, and offered you some ways to manage it.
We hope that this article has made you pay more attention to how stress manifests in your life. By identifying the main stressors in your day-to-day living, you can work on overcoming them and creating a brighter, more peaceful future for yourself.