How does Stress affect your Overall Health
While this website is mainly a business page for a nutritionist, we still cover all sorts of things regarding a healthy lifestyle, such as diet and exercise. But there are other factors, both internal and external, that can affect your overall health. After all, we are just as much a product of both our genetics and our environment just as much as we are a product of how active we are and how well we eat. So, it is, for this reason, we are going to examine another underlying factor that can cause excessive damage to our bodies and our minds, stress.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year.” That’s three-quarters of the American adult population. Even the American Institute of Stress pointed out, “80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress.” And this isn’t just a countrywide epidemic. It’s worldwide.
So, if this is such a widespread issue: We need to look at a couple of factors involved with stress. For starters, we would need to ask ourselves: “How does stress work? “, “What kind of damage can it do?” , and if it is serious, “What can we do to fix it?”.
The Purpose of Stress
For starters, stress should not be constant. It does, however, exist for our benefit short-term.
In small bursts, stress is supposed to be beneficial. When a person is temporarily stressed, it is their brain signaling to them the presence of immediate danger. For example, if you realized that a bee was uncomfortably close to you, your initial instinct would be to panic and flee from the threat. You would feel anxious while your body responds to the sudden burst of adrenaline. The adrenaline would make your heart pound fast, your knees weaken, and your legs ready to sprint off that burst of energy.
Once you were a healthy distance away from the insect, the moment of panic would cease and your body would cool down from the rush. Stress exists to give your body a chance to respond to threats with immediate action. Without it, our ancestors would not have survived living in the wilderness. Nor would they have been able to adapt to extreme environmental changes.
But when you are hopped up on too much adrenaline from excess stress, it becomes less about survival and more about self-destruction.
Different Types of Stress
People have been able to identify the different types of stress that exist in spite of the lack of an official definition of the word. These different types of stress include:
Fight or flight. The body prepares to defend itself. It takes about 90 minutes for the metabolism to return to normal when the response is over.
The cost of daily living: bills, kids, jobs…This is the stress we tend to ignore or push down. Left uncontrolled this stress affects your health- your body and your immune system.
Stress in daily life that has positive connotations such as:
Stress in daily life that has negative connotations such as:
While all of these stresses are understandable to some degree or another, it is chronic stress that can be the most deadly and can decrease your health just as fast as cigarettes combined with fast food.
How Chronic Stress Hurts your Body
When it comes to your health, chronic stress can do damage to your body, your mental state, and interferes with your daily routines. Chronic stress can lower your immune system, increasing the likelihood of you getting sick. It can also elevate your blood pressure, increase the number of headaches you experience on a regular basis, and can even cause chest pain, or upset stomach. When left unchecked stress can make your muscles feel tense 24/7 and can increase the chances of insomnia while simultaneously robbing you of your energy. And these are only the physical symptoms.
According to the mayo clinic, you start to suffer from low self-esteem, along with the overwhelming feeling that you are starting to lose control of your life. Your mind races 24/7 and you get so mired in your misery that your feelings of worthlessness start messing with your social interactions. You begin to snap at people for little good reason and get irritable at practically every little thing. And this is all from a cognitive perspective. Your behavior exacerbates stress into a further dangerous territory.
When you are stressed chronically, you start to take it out on your body as an ill-formed coping mechanism. This includes binging behavior and starvation, procrastination, and the increased use of drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol. After a while, when it gets left unchecked, you start to develop mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and even personality disorders. If you aren’t biting your nails or ripping your hair from it, you would probably experience hair loss. At it’s worst, it will show up in the form of heart disease, heart attacks, and even strokes. If it gets to a certain point, it could probably kill a person.
How to Manage Stress
We know how dangerous stress can be, but how can we work to decrease those stress levels? There are plenty of important things to do, including but not limited to:
It can improve your mood and can give your mind something to focus on other than work, kids, or finances. The starter amount is 3 to 5 times a week for 30 minutes. Remember to set fitness goals, and to not worry about being perfect at it. Any at all is better than nothing.
Relax your Muscles:
Take some time to unwind your body through a hot bath, a massage, stretching, or just getting some extra sleep through the night.
Take Deep Breaths:
If something is getting to you at the moment, just relax, take a deep breath for a few seconds and focus. You would be surprised at how better you feel afterward.
Eat a Balanced Diet:
Your body and your mind work best when you are eating a balanced diet. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean protein are a great place to start and can help both your body and mind function.
Talk to Someone:
Therapists, doctors, family, and friends are just a few of the people who are willing to both listen to your problems and encourage you with positive thoughts. They might be able to help you out of your stressful situation. Either way, it is not good to internalize it and suffer alone.