Stressed about an upcoming exam? Worried about a stock market crash? Suffering from a severe illness and waiting on your lab results? No matter the cause, stress can creep into your life whenever you’re experiencing physical, mental, or emotional strain. Surprisingly, some stress can actually be beneficial in many circumstances. When feeling stressed, our bodies enter a “fight or flight” mode which can help us address and tackle challenges as they arise, be it a physical virus or a critical life event. Short-term stress can also boost strength and energy levels. However, when you remain under stress for long periods of time, you’ll notice that it does more harm than good for both your body and brain.
Here’s how stress takes a toll on your body and many of its functions:
Stress Sabotages The Skin
Ever wonder why you breakout before an important event? Since stress activates your fight or flight response, your body releases a hormone called cortisol which increases the secretion of sebum from your pores. Increased sebum production can clog pores and cause painful acne flareups. Stress may even worsen various skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, and chronic rashes. This is thanks to the fact that cortisol also promotes inflammation which aggravates pre-existing conditions.
Stress Wreaks Havoc on Your Gut
Butterflies in your stomach are nothing but a short-term effect of stress on your GI tract. Unfortunately, stress reduces the integrity of the gastrointestinal lining and facilitates the entry of harmful pathogens from food into the blood. Stress also affects how your intestines move food through your system which can lead to bloating, constipation, diarrhea, discomfort, and painful muscle spasms. When you are under mental, emotional, and physical strain, the digestion and absorption of food are also negatively affected.
Stress and Headaches
Headaches and stress go hand in hand. Tensed neck muscles, clenched teeth, insomnia, and poor posture due to stress may lead to throbbing pain in the head, commonly referred to as a tension headache. Eating less than normal due to anxiety and stress may also trigger the onset of a headache or even a migraine. What’s even worse is that headaches further irritate you and increase your stress levels! Managing headaches is very important since they can dramatically impact your quality of life. Eat well and get plenty of rest to manage your stress levels and therefore reduce painful headaches.
Stress Impairs Your Immune System
While you’re busy tackling your day-to-day tasks, your immune system is constantly fighting against harmful pathogens and protecting your body against toxins in the environment. When you’re feeling stressed out, the immune system is suppressed by the cortisol hormone to boost your ability to fight or flee a more imminent threat. This is the reason why people tend to suffer from more illnesses and infections when they are stressed out. It also doesn’t help that many people opt for smoking, drinking, and other unhealthy coping mechanisms during difficult times which will further deteriorate their health.
Stress and Mood Swings
Stress can make you feel grumpy and low on energy. Social interactions, preparing a home-cooked meal, and even making your bed may make you want to blow your lid when you’re under a lot of stress. The hormones released during a stressful time eventually break down into components that act as sedatives. These can then induce fatigue and depression when they overwhelm your body’s system. Stress can even cause someone’s personality to change. A person who was once calm, happy, and self-loving can become aggressive, frustrated, angry, and defensive when under too much stress.
Chronic stress can harm your body in many ways and erode your health before you know it. Emotional, mental, and physical stability are important for normal functioning and reducing stress. Whether it’s going for long walks, practicing yoga or spending time meditating each morning, it’s vital that you find a healthy way to cope with stress and ease your nerves. Remember, it’s good to be concerned about your health but don’t worry too much!