Nobody likes stress. It’s an emotion we feel during times of chaos and uncertainty – when we don’t have control over a situation, or we feel like things will never get better.
It’s not enough to just flippantly learn about stress relief for when things are really bad. You need to have a clear understanding about what stress does to your body and mind – and it doesn’t have to be life changing events – it can be small stress that adds up on a daily basis.
Stress Can Literally Break Your Heart
When stress is running rampant in your life, it’s taking a toll on your heart. High blood pressure is always a recurring theme of stress, and when you’re under a lot of stress, your cholesterol levels soar, too.
Cortisol hormones cause a great imbalance. Cortisol, paired with adrenaline, get into your bloodstream the minute you encounter a stressful situation. Left untreated, these two hormones will wreak havoc on your body, keeping you ramped up in a fight or flight state of mind.
Sometimes it’s not just the high blood pressure or cholesterol levels that hurt your heart – it’s the stress relief measure you’re engaging in that do the most damage.
For example, someone who is untrained in stress relief might reach for fattening, sugar-laden foods like a big bowl of ice cream that helps them drown their sorrows.
Others might deal with stress by having a cigarette break every time they encounter even the smallest amount of stress. Those unhealthy habits are what cause the most damage to your heart, not the stress itself.
Stress Devastates Your Immune System
Whenever you experience a chronic amount of stress, it starts to weaken your immune system, making you vulnerable to viruses and colds as well as other diseases.
Your body has first responder cells that attack invaders, and when you are highly stressed, you don’t have as many of these natural defense mechanisms. Keep stress at bay, but when you know you’re under more stress than usual, make sure you load up on vitamin C and other supplements that might help your body fight back.
Your Digestive System Takes a Beating
Your digestive system doesn’t work as well when you are feeling burdened by stress. Some people will have symptoms like heartburn when they’re stressed out – even if they haven’t eaten any traditional heartburn-inducing foods.
Others will suffer from constipation or diarrhea during particularly stressful episodes. Some of these symptoms can be better controlled by dietary changes under stressful conditions.
Your stomach might experience pain if you don’t handle stress well. Some people find themselves suffering from ulcers and the chemical makeup of your gut gets altered because oxygen doesn’t reach it the same way, making it not function properly.
If you know that you’re prone to digestive disorders during stressful times, then you can make dietary changes to help you alleviate some of the concerns. Try adding probiotics to your diet (you can find them in yogurt).
Stress Causes Physical Pain
Have you ever heard the term “stress headache?” That’s a tension headache brought on by a great deal of stress that you’re experiencing. For some people, it’s mild – and for others, it’s a full-blown migraine.
Headaches aren’t the only pain you can suffer from stress. Back pain is a major symptom of too much stress. The lower back especially is susceptible to stress attacks.
Many people experience a kink (also called a crick) in their necks due to stress. Sometimes this is caused by aligning your body improperly during sleep, but other times it’s due to tension during your sleep patterns, and muscles aches from the anxiety.
Fatigue from Stress Wears You Down
Anyone who has gone through stressful times will know how overwhelming the fatigue can be. The cortisol that heightens your alert system will eventually subside, causing your energy levels to crash.
Cortisol also boosts your blood sugar, so when that eases up, your energy levels will drain and you’ll feel like you’ve just run a marathon, even if you’ve been sitting on the couch all day long.
Many times, individuals won’t sleep well during prolonged periods of stress, so the lack of sleep causes daytime fatigue. Even if you think you got enough sleep, it may have been restless in nature.
Stress Evolves Into Full-Blown Depression
If you’re not careful, then stress can turn into something much more harrowing – depression. It’s one thing to feel increased anxiety from time to time, and another to become depressed by the constant state of stress that you’re in.
Because the cortisol floods your body, it diminishes the amount of serotonin, or feel good hormones that you have. Under stack from stress, this makes it difficult when you have nothing that’s able to fight back against the negative thoughts.
Usually, one event or small situation that’s stressful won’t cause you to fall into a deep depression. It takes on-going stress to get you to that point. If you notice you’re getting depressed past the point of slightly upset periodically, seek help and also work on treating it naturally.
Insomnia Will Develop Due to Deep Stress
Sleep tends to get disrupted when you’re going through a lot of stress. Even a small incident can keep your mind churning when you lie down to sleep, preventing you from falling or staying asleep.
Take time to do everything you can to get a good deal of rest. More than any other stress relief technique, ample sleep will allow you to be ready to tackle whatever the day may hold.
Engage in proper sleep hygiene where you create a restful environment for you to relax in. Find methods of mind relaxation that resonate with you. It might be self-hypnosis, guided imagery, or neuro linguistic programming.
Stress Plays Games with Your Memory
Some people start to forget things and instantly worry that they’re aging prematurely and possibly suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. But it might just be that you’re experiencing stress.
From losing your keys to forgetting names, stress can interrupt your thought processes and cause you to forget things you’ve always known before. Cortisol is to blame for coming between you and your memories – and unfortunately, during stress, it is flooded into your bloodstream.
What’s odd is that in short bursts of stress, your memory can actually be improved slightly because your body and mind are under pressure. But chronic stress is what causes an impediment in your memory.
Hair Loss Is a Sign of Chronic Stress
Although you normally lose up to 100 strands of hair each day, during times of on-going stress, you might lose much more. Small stressful events don’t cause you to shed your locks.
The chronic stress is what causes one of the three forms of stress-related hair loss. Some people get so stressed out that they pull their hair out. This is known as Trichotillomania.
Another form of stress-induced hair loss is Alopecia areata. This is when your immune system goes haywire and attacks your follicles. We already know that your immune system is compromised during high levels of stress.
The other way stress causes hair loss is called Telogen effluvium. The cortisol and high stress levels send your hair into a dead phase, and it ends up falling out over time in high quantities.
Sometimes, when the stress subsides, the hair grows back. Other times, it’s permanent. You can get hair loss treatments to help you save more of your locks during stressful times, including the supplement Biotin, which strengthens your hair and your nails.
Stress Can Result in Premature Labor
Pregnancy is a time of anxiety for many women. Your body is undergoing many changes and you’re feeling tons of physical symptoms. But if you add on extra stress, you could cause your body to go into early labor.
Doctors will advise you to rest and relax during your pregnancy, and it’s a good idea! Not only will your body be better able to handle the physical signs of pregnancy, but relaxing will help your mental state as well.
Remember that stress devastates your immune system, and that makes your uterus open to the possibility of an infection. That infection can put you into labor too early.
Researchers also aren’t sure, but it might impact your unborn baby, too. There are many childbirth classes focusing on relaxation – and there’s even a special massage for pregnant women that might be beneficial to keep your body and mind at ease.
Skin Disorders Flare Up Under Stress
Growing up during your teen years, you may have experienced how stress affects your skin whenever you had a flare-up of acne. Acne can be one sign of increased stress and anxiety.
Some people experience rashes and itching from increased stress. If they suffer from psoriasis, eczema, or rosacea – the symptoms can be painful and embarrassing for some.
If you’re prone to developing skin irritations during stress, make sure you add something else to your list of stress relief tactics – skincare! You can get calming skincare products that reduce inflammation and help soothe and calm your skin.
Don’t neglect your basic skincare routine, either. Continue washing away those oils so that they don’t clog your pores.
Some people develop fever blisters when they’re under a great deal of stress. If you experience these, the best thing you can do for it is to calm your mind so that the cortisol levels diminish and your skin returns to normal.
Stress Ages You Much Too Early
Stress can age you quicker than usual – especially at a cellular level. The cortisol running rampant through your blood is debilitating your cells, so when it comes time for them to go to work repairing your body from toxins and other things, they don’t have it in them to do the work.
The blood pressure that spikes during times of stress also ages you because the blood vessels constrict and end up damaging your hearing and your vision. This could be temporary – but if it’s chronic, it could be permanent.
You might already notice that when you’re stressed and not getting enough sleep, you look older the next morning. You have dark circles and bags under your eyes. You’re probably not hydrated well, either.
You may have noticed how quickly American Presidents age after four years in office. Researchers believe that high levels of stress can contribute to a hastening of the aging process, from both an internal and external viewpoint.
Stress is unavoidable. Everyone will experience it at one time or another. But how you handle it will make a big difference in whether it becomes a danger to you, or a simple temporary, and minor distraction.