Everyone has some degree of stress in life. Relationship conflicts, work deadlines, health concerns, or financial strain can all cause stress. While some amount of stress helps keep you focused and motivated, unmanaged chronic stress comes with negative consequences. You may think stress just makes you uptight, distracted, and short-tempered, but it does a lot more than affect your emotions. Stress has the ability to harm your physical health as well.
When your body senses danger, your brain triggers the fight-or-flight response. The adrenal glands produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol to prepare the body for action. Your heart starts pounding, you begin to sweat, and you get a burst of energy. This natural chain of events is beneficial in the right circumstance, but when stress becomes the norm, your body may get stuck in a constant fight-or-flight mode. Overexposure to stress hormones may wreck havoc on your health.
Wonder what stress could be doing to your body? Read on to find out.
Both tension headaches and migraines are associated with stress. Cortisol makes the brain more sensitive to pain, so while your levels are elevated or you’re in the immediate aftermath of stress, you're at increased risk for headaches.
You may not realize it, but stress makes your muscles tense. Your jaw may clench, your neck may be tight, and you may grind your teeth in your sleep. Plus, you may not be sleeping well. All these factors can contribute to headaches.
Ever noticed that you have the munchies when you're stressed? You crave anything sweet or high in fat. Hence the empty chip bag or cookie package. Cortisol affects the area in the brain responsible for appetite and leads to you eating all sorts of things you shouldn’t.
A second way stress contributes to weight gain is because cortisol tells the body to hold onto fat cells and to make them larger. Chronic stress has been linked to greater amounts of belly fat.
That feeling of butterflies in your stomach before a big performance or presentation is an adrenaline response. Circulating stress hormones are known to cause stomach cramping, diarrhea, heartburn, and upset stomach. The digestive disorder irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that's characterized by periods of diarrhea and constipation is clearly influenced by stress.
Not been sleeping well lately? It could be the stress you're under at work. Your mind is racing and your body just doesn't feel tired even though you haven't gotten a good night's rest in days. This could likely be the result of cortisol. Long-term stress can lead to sleep disorders that can make you cranky, irritable, unfocused, and unproductive.
Stressed out all the time? You're at a greater risk for stroke and heart attack. Stress increases your blood pressure, narrows your arteries, affects the way blood clots, and puts a strain on your heart.
In addition, many people attempt to manage their stress through unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking or eating too much, which also harm the heart.
People who deal with high levels of unmanaged stress in their lives have a weakened immune system. When exposed to viruses, they're less able to fight off the germs and end up with frequent colds, bugs, and various illnesses. So chill out and yes, you will feel better!