That frown on your face when an unruly driver overtakes you dangerously, the impending presentation that is giving you sleepless nights, thoughts of the future interrupting your family time. All of these and many such instances contribute to your stress levels every day.
Stress is the body’s reaction to anything unusual; it is closely related to our survival instincts. Consistent and high levels of stress can cause an imbalance of stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which can in turn have a negative impact on our bodies. This leads to many physical and psychological problems.
Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases: Stress makes the heart beat faster as it works overtime in an attempt to quickly distribute blood to the body. This increases heart rate, makes the heart pump faster, increases blood pressure and makes it difficult to breathe. Over a period, constant high stress can increase the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, and hypertension.
Digestive problems & diabetes: Constant stress makes your liver produce higher than usual blood sugar to give you energy to deal with the stressful event. If the stress remains constant, your body may not be able to keep up with this extra glucose (blood sugar) and you may be at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Stress can also result in other conditions such as heartburn, acid reflex, nausea, stomach ache, and adversely affect the overall digestive system.
Chronic aches and pains: Muscles tend to tense up to avoid injuries during a stress. Once the event has passed, muscles relax again. If you are constantly under stress, muscles do not relax which can lead to back and shoulder pain, headaches, and body aches. As you may resort to painkillers to deal with this frequently occurring pain, it can begin an unhealthy dependency if the core issue of high stress isn’t resolved.
Adverse effects on mental health: The less obvious but equally significant adverse effects of consistent stress are felt by our minds. High levels of stress can lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, memory problems, lack of concentration, etc. This can have a long-term or short-term impact depending on how quickly you recognize the symptoms and seek solutions.
All of these effects of stress sound daunting and overwhelming but none of them have to become a permanent part of your life. At the same time, there is no denying that stress is an inevitable part of our lives. While resisting it isn’t a viable solution, managing it is possible.
There are many ways to manage stress and reduce its impact on our lives and body such as yoga, regular exercise, meditation, tai chi, investing time in hobbies etc. Beyond these self-help solutions, there is always the option of seeking advice from a professional such as your doctor or a therapist. The first step is to recognize and understand the impact of stress in your life and then make necessary adjustments to your lifestyle.