Stress is a reality that we all have to live with. You may have noticed that the stress levels have reached an all-time high ever since the pandemic struck. This is when things began to go haywire and we began to lose control over various aspects of our lives including health, finances and interpersonal relationships.
Fortunately, earnest efforts are being made on all platforms to help people cope with stress, by emphasizing the need to boost psychological health. That is why in this article, we will talk about stress, the physical effects of stress and how you can alleviate this unpleasant feeling.
What is stress?
Stress is a natural reaction of your mind and body to any demanding or challenging event/experience. Stress is not simply a psychological strain. When you are faced with an unfavourable situation, alarm bells go off inside your body and it reverts to its primitive fight or flight instinct through a complex mechanism.
This is when the adrenal glands start producing the hormones – adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol is beneficial in helping you respond to danger by suppressing those bodily functions that are non-essential in the fight-or-flight response, such as your digestive system and reproductive system. However these hormones prepare you by increasing blood glucose levels for energy, a faster heartbeat and breathing can be experienced.
All these functions of stress hormones were crucial during the evolutionary process because they kept the early humans alive. Once the threat has passed, cortisol levels drop and the body resets itself and all the systems go back to their normal functions.
However, that is not the case today. Our circumstances keep us in a perpetual state of stress. Be it the fear of losing your job, health or loved ones, we are always in a state of anxiety.
But you are not alone and there are ways you can control your stress. But before we go into that, we need to learn about the side effects of stress.
What are the effects of stress on the body?
The side effects of stress are both emotional and physical. Once you identify the effects of stress on the body, you will be better equipped to take action against stress.
- Emotional symptoms of stress:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Emotional exhaustion
- Feeling alienated
- Low self-esteem
- Persistent sadness or Depression
- Inability to relax or calm the mind.
- Physical symptoms of stress can be seen as:
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Muscle pain
- Difficulty in breathing
- Compromised immunity, frequent cases of the common cold.
- Rapid heartbeat and pulse rate
- Constant sweating
- Dry mouth
- Sweaty hands and feet
- A feeling of heaviness in the chest.
- Increase or decrease in sleep
- Cognitive symptoms of stress may present as:
- Rapid uncontrollable thoughts
- Pessimistic thinking
- Always fearing that the worst will come true.
- Poor judgment
- Inability to focus
- Behavioural symptoms of stress may be:
- Losing patience with people around you.
- Avoiding taking on responsibilities.
- Stress-eating or losing your appetite.
- Constant fidgeting
- Increasing reliance on alcohol.
- Not wanting to finish your tasks.
What happens if the effects of stress on the body are unchecked?
Long-term effects of stress on the body and mind can be quite dangerous and will impact different aspects of your health:
- Psychological illnesses such as clinical depression and personality disorders.
- Increased risk of heart diseases- lack of sleep and constant high blood pressure damage your arteries and they cannot supply enough blood to the heart. This raises the risk of a heart attack.
- Obesity – stress-eating and the unwillingness to exercise leads to rapid weight gain. Obesity further increases the risk of heart and arterial problems, type 2 diabetes, asthma and joint disorders.
- Menstrual irregularly because cortisol affects the oestrogen and progesterone cycle which regulates menstruation.
- Sexual dysfunction, erectile disorder and fertility issues.
- Gastrointestinal problems such as gastritis, ulcers and acidity problems.
- Skin and hair problems.
How can you deal with stress?
Stress is inevitable, you can’t escape it. But the good news is that there are ways you can curb stress. It will seem difficult at first but with persistence, you can do it! Here are a few strategies:
- Practice meditation daily, Meditation and Mindfulness teach you to calm the mind and get your thoughts in control. Join a meditation studio for expert guidance.
- Practice yoga and pranayam. The focus it takes to do yoga relaxes your mind.
- Do full-body exercises such as jogging, brisk walking, swimming, jumping rope or jump squats. These exercises can release endorphins or happy hormones.
- If you are addicted to coffee, it’s time to cut down on your caffeine intake. Up to 400 mg of coffee is a safe daily limit.
- Opt for social media detoxification. Online trolling, anxiety about how your social media posts perform, the number of likes and comments can severely raise your anxiety levels.
- Avoid mental stimulation before going to bed. No social media, news or movies in bed. Read a book or play soothing music before falling asleep.
- Maintain a journal of your feelings and emotions. Writing is a great way to vent off unpleasant emotions.
- Try connecting with family and friends who understand and sympathise with you.
- Consume content that makes you happy, be it books, movies, magazines or social media videos.
- Certain foods such as dark chocolate, nuts, yoghurt, fatty fishes, eggs, turmeric and pumpkin seeds work wonders to relieve stress.
- If you think your stress is getting out of hand, consider seeking a therapist’s help. They can guide you better.
- Stress is your body’s way of reacting to danger and unfavourable situations.
- Even if you can’t avoid stress, you can learn how to control it.
- Uncontrolled stress can lead to serious health complications.
- Social media increases stress levels.
- With yoga, meditation, exercise you can learn to be calmer, composed and in control of your emotions.
- A healthy diet, good hydration and well managed daily routine help to ease stress.
- Smoking can actually increase stress.
Being aware of stress, the effects of stress on the body and the long-term dangers of stress can help you live a fulfilled life. Whether it is for you or your loved ones, stay alert to the signs of stress so that you can take the right action at the right time. Consulting a psychotherapist or psychiatrist can help you magically. This can literally save lives.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.