Stress is a natural aspect of everyday living. We all experience it – some more than others. What remains constant is its prevalence. Whether you are a student or a professional or anyone in between, you are bound to experience stress in life situations. The physical interpretations of stress are most commonly feeling breathless and experiencing increased heartbeat and headaches. Additionally, you might feel irritable, experience heavy breathing, heart sinking, and muscle pain along with a lack of sleep, and maybe an upset stomach as well – it translates differently in everyone.
13 Ways Stress Affects Your Health & Tips to Manage Stress
Here are some ways in which stress can affect your health.
1. Compromises Immunity
Your immune system builds up your primary defense against infection and disease – both of which put your body under a significant amount of stress. While stress does indeed help activate the immune system, its long-term effects are everything but beneficial. When the immune system is activated, the body produces healing and antigenic responses that enable the body to combat and impending threat to its wellbeing. When released for a prolonged period, stress hormones can, in fact, weaken your immunity. Additionally, you might also experience a longer recovery time owing to your reduced ability to fight off infection.
2. Causes Reproductive Hormonal Imbalance
Stress can lead to increased hormonal imbalances related to your reproductive system. Women with high-stress levels are more prone to experiencing irregular periods along with extreme pain, heavy bleeding, as well as extended periods. Stress also aggravates premenstrual symptoms and may worsen symptoms associated with menopause. As for men, stress may lead to enhanced testosterone production. However, that effect is short-lived for prolonged stress may result in erectile dysfunction, reduced sperm count, and even impotence. It also increases the chances of developing infections as well as reduced libido.
3. Affects Heart Health
Cardiovascular health is essential for wellbeing. One of the most common presentations of stress on cardiovascular health is increased heart rate. Stress hormones increase blood pressure but constricting blood vessels. Prolonged stress can progress to develop hypertension, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
4. Impedes Smooth Digestion
Stress hormones can upset your smooth digestive process leading to constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach cramps. Chronic stress can be very damaging to digestive health as it may lead to the development of stomach ulcers, acid reflux, heartburn, and more.
5. Leads to Muscle Tension
Muscle tension is a common interpretation of stress. Stressed muscles lead to pain and discomfort along with headaches, backaches, as well as shoulder and muscle pain.
6. Hinders Breathing
Stress and impaired breathing are a common occurrence in the masses. It is normal if you feel out of breath when you are feeling stressed out. An increased breathing rate can facilitate the presence of more oxygen for the body cell, but it can also aggravate respiratory issues such as asthma.
7. Causes Long-term Internal Damage
Cortisol and adrenaline are released when the body is under stress. They are responsible for increasing your heartbeat and enhancing blood supply to the parts of your body that need it the most during emergencies. These include the heart, brain, muscles, as well as other organs. These levels fall back to normal when you are out of the said stressful situation. Prolonged stress can result in high cortisol levels in the blood that can impede the functioning of normal body processes, which can be quite damaging to your organs internally in the end.
8. Enhances Risk of Diabetes
Diabetes results when the body is incapable of producing insulin or simply not responding to it. When under stress, your blood glucose levels rise. This increased glucose gives your body the energy to handle any flight or fight situation with ease. Continuous stress, however, results in increased glucose levels in the blood consistently. These increased levels are unable for the body to cope up with and therefore leads to an
9. Induces Behavioral Changes
Stress pushes one to switch to alternative ways to relax. Everyone has different coping mechanisms. While some can be constructive, the majority is not as productive. In the pursuit of peace, some switch to smoking, others to alcohol, and some to substance abuse. Other ways in which people fight off stress is by overeating or not eating and by being a social recluse – all of which are destructive behavioral changes that can leave a negative impact bound to stick around for a long time.
10. Disrupts Mental Wellbeing
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11. Induces Frequent Headaches
Chronic headaches sprout from various causes, but the most prominent cause behind them is stress. Also referred to as tension headaches, chronic headaches result when you find yourself in a challenging position. A headache may seem like an uncomplicated ordeal, but it is capable of affecting your productivity in various capacities.
12. Increases Nosebleeds
Nosebleeds have been proven to result from stress in many. High blood pressure results in nosebleeds. Stress and high blood pressure are interrelated, which is why people battling chronic stress are at a much higher risk of getting frequent nosebleeds than others.
13. Causes Mood Swings
Stress leads to one feeling an array of emotions, causing a shift in mood. These include restlessness, anger, sorrow, anxiety, irritability, pessimism, demotivation, and more. This may lead to impaired productivity as well as problems with your day-to-day relations and affiliations.
Tips to Manage Stress
There is no way you can lead a stress-free life. Stress management is not as easy as it may sound. However, stress management is the only way to protect yourself from damaging outcomes. Stress can often cloud our judgment and distract us. Distraction results in a lack of focus and concentration, which may lead to performance issues, especially in the workplace. Overcoming stress can help you have more control over your emotions, mood, energy, as well as overall attitude towards life in general.
In order to take control of yourself fully, it is prudent to identify your stress triggers. Following are some way in which you can manage your stress.
Muscle tension is a common stress-related outcome. Excess stress tends to translate itself in the form of physical symptoms. Muscle tension leads to pain, which causes further discomfort. Loosen up your muscles by treating yourself to a massage occasionally. Take a warm bath to ease that built-up tension. For a daily dose of relaxation, take up stretching exercises and yoga to improve flexibility as well as blood flow. Increased blood flow to the muscles helps soothe the pain.
Exercise is a crucial part of daily life. Regardless of who you are and what you do, it is prudent that you incorporate exercise into your routine owing to its countless benefits. Exercise benefits not only your physical health but also your mental health. It is the perfect anecdote to combating stress as it helps relax the mind and body. The release of endorphins helps lift your mood. The trick is to be consistent with your routine. For the best results, exercise 3 to 5 days a week.
Related article: 16 Ways To Reach Your Fitness Goals
Breathing exercises are a tried and tested cure to help cope with stress. There is a reason why everyone tells you to take a deep breath when met with a difficult situation. Breathing exercises are especially great because they increase your oxygen intake. Just close your eyes and imagine yourself in your happy place. It could be the beach, an open field of grass, or perhaps next to a loved one. Whatever ignites peace in you is what you need to channel to go to your happy place.
Food plays an integral role in determining not just your physical health but your mental health as well. Various mental health conditions have been associated with nutritional deficiencies. Research proves that a well-balanced and healthy diet can help you overcome mood swings, help improve your general health and help you combat infections. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean meats into your daily diet to ensure your nutritional requirements are not compromised in any way.
Ward Off Triggers
Stress triggers are damaging to health. It is essential to find ways to ward off daily life triggers if you wish to keep your mind at peace. If you need to get to work on time, start by leaving a little early. If you have a major task to accomplish, work in small steps. Most stressful situations take root from a lack of time management. Procrastination can make you feel like you have control over a situation, but the truth is that it can only make you feel better for a while until it is too late.
Breaks are essential if you wish to have your brain function at its optimum level. Whether it is long study sessions or a tedious work assignment, rest is crucial. However, it is critical to know the difference between a small break and a long one because the latter may lead you to procrastinate heavily. Short breaks usually lasting 15 to 20 minutes are excellent mind refreshers as they can boost productivity and help you focus better. Try stepping outside and get some fresh air. Go for a quick stroll around and perhaps listen to some music while you are at it. Do a little bit of yoga to get the blood pumping.
Indulge in Hobbies
Hobbies are the perfect distraction. Work can be fun but not always. Hobbies, however, never fail to make us feel happy. All work and no play can lead you to feel depressed; therefore, it is essential that you set aside some time for yourself and indulge in any activity that you love. It could be reading, writing, watching movies, art, or anything else – what matters is that you give yourself time to breathe and relax. You might think you do not have time for a fun break, but the time you set aside for yourself makes all the difference in the world for your mental wellbeing.
We all need a friend to talk to when times are rough. People who share their feelings with their friends and family are proven to experience greater stress relief as compared to those who choose to keep their problems to themselves. Bottling up emotions brings no good to anyone. In fact, it can lead to additional stress that can prevent you from functioning at your maximum capacity. If you are a private person, a great way to express your emotions is to write it out. It is important to remind yourself of the good things and to push yourself to do better.
Go easy on yourself and calm down. Everyone makes mistakes for it is only human. Stop overthinking and give yourself a break. Learn to let things go and learn to do better. It is important to remember that some things are beyond your control, so it is best to let them be the way they are. Try to not think ahead into the future. We seem to worry about prospects, but in the process, we tend to forget about focusing on the present.
Learn to Overcome
Learn to eliminate stress to the max by learning to overcome your stress triggers and coping mechanisms. Look up ways to manage stress better and try them out to see if they work for you. Learning and trying new things is always a beneficial experience.
Stress does more harm to your body that you know. While some may think that its impact is limited towards your mental health, stress can damage your physical health as well. Stress translates itself into various ailments that are incredibly damaging to your overall health. It is critical that everyone learns the art of stress management for it is a quintessential necessity in these tough times. Learn to effectively manage your stress levels so you can stay protected as well.
Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life. – Andrew J. Bernstein