There is no denying that reducing stress can help you lead a happier and healthier life. However, why is stress such a powerful indicator of wellbeing? Let’s talk about how stress affects the mind and body, and why controlling and managing stress can uplift your mood, boost your immune function, and promote longevity.
Stress and Physiological Symptoms
When you are stressed, the brain goes through chemical and physical changes that alter its overall functioning. High levels of stress lead to chemicals, such as the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, being produced in the brain.
When a large number of these “fight-or-flight” hormones, such as adrenaline, are released by the adrenal glands, an individual may experience physiological effects, such as rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and a weak immune system.
Stress and Digestive Disorders
Chronic stress is responsible for other issues like stomach ulcers, stroke, asthma, and heart disease. The brain-gut connection has a strong, two-way effect. Digestive disorders can cause stress and anxiety, while stress and anxiety can also aggravate digestive disorders. Our body’s fight-or-flight response can halt digestion because the body believes that it needs to deal with the perceived threat first. Hence, chronic stress can disrupt the digestive system’s normal workings and contribute to bloating, pain, and discomfort.
The intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients is also affected, which in turn influences the pace at which food moves through the body. This can cause you to eat more or less than your usual diet. The disruption in your body’s natural process of digestion can lead to nausea, pain, vomiting, acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea.
Stress and Disease
Healthcare professionals believe that chronic stress is the leading cause of diseases, such as cancer and heart attacks. This is because the body’s physical reactions are altered due to prolonged stress. These alterations accumulate and disguise themselves as we try to adapt to the ongoing stress. Building a tolerance to stress means that our nervous system is dealing with an overload- in the long run, this can affect the overall health.
A study tracked over 68,000 healthy adults for a period of eight years and found that those who were always under stress and pressure were more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. The results of the study related chronic stress to a 40-60% increased risk of coronary heart disease. You might have also noticed that when stressed, the muscles in your body get tensed. This eventually leads to tension, headaches, migraines, and other musculoskeletal discomforts.
Stress and Aging
A professor from the University of California researched the relationship between stress and telomerase, an enzyme-linked to aging. She found that people who are victims of chronic stress, such as parents with chronically ill children, have apparently shortened telomeres.
A landmark study discovered that these parents, especially women, aged ten times faster than those who did not have chronic stress in their lives.
Stress and Psychological Effects
Keeping the physical symptoms of stress aside, it is also responsible for a number of mental and emotional disorders. This includes anxiety, depression, phobias, and panic attacks. Emotional stress can affect your decision-making abilities, making it hard to focus and retain things.
Stress also makes you easily frustrated, irritable, impatient and can affect your interpersonal relations with your friends, colleagues, and family. Furthermore, stress is the leading cause of depression, anger, feelings of unease, and insecurity, as well as conflicts in relationships.
While the physical effects of stress can disturb your daily life, psychological effects also need to be given importance. They play a massive part in an individual’s overall health and wellbeing.
Studies show that a healthy amount of stress is essential as it leads to increased brain functioning, a boosted immune system, and helps the body prepare for stressful situations. This quality can positively affect an individual’s emotional health and improve their work and home life.
However, controlling stress is essential. It needs to be managed because it causes a wide variety of effects on health, leaving you vulnerable to heart attacks and mental and physical issues. Stress can affect your daily life and can be experienced mentally, physically, emotionally, and behaviorally- all at the same time. If you cannot manage your stress, seek the advice of a medical professional.