Stress is something of a foregone conclusion in most people’s lives in this day and age. Your boss may be having a bad day and he takes his mood out on you, or maybe you just received your cellphone bill and it’s $100 more than usual because your teenager has been running up roaming rates and data charges. In most cases, your body can recover from these rushes in a relatively short period of time. But sometimes stress affects your body in a much more monumental way: the death of a loved one, the loss of your job, or the threat of divorce. In these cases, stress can take a physical toll.
The Fight or Flight Response
When a stressful event occurs, your body naturally reacts with that fight or flight response we inherited from our ancestors and share with all animals. Respiration and heart rate increase. Muscles tense. Stress hormones surge. Your body is preparing you to fight to the death or run for your life. The rush typically ebbs when the crisis is past, leaving you feeling normal again.
Chronic stress – that which results from major life events – doesn’t allow your body to recover from its reactionary response to trouble. This is when stress can manifest in physical problems.
Physical Symptoms of Chronic Stress
Your body will inevitably suffer when you carry stress with you day in and day out so your system never gets a peaceful breather. According to the Mayo Clinic, some symptoms that you’ve been under too much stress for too long include nausea, headaches, muscle aches and pains, chest pains, insomnia and fatigue. All these physical responses are the result of your body almost constantly preparing you to react at full throttle. Left untended, you might experience the following:
- Chronic migraines can result from unrelieved and continuous tension of the head, neck and shoulder muscles.
- Frequently increased respiration can aggravate emphysema and trigger asthma attacks. It can prompt panic attacks in those predisposed to them.
- Prolonged stress can elevate noradrenaline, adrenaline and cortisol levels without relief. These are the body’s stress hormones. Normally, they kick into gear in an emergency, increasing heart rate and causing the heart to contract. Over an extended period of time, this can result in high blood pressure, heart problems and even stroke. It can also increase cholesterol levels. These effects may be worse for postmenopausal women.
- Cortisol and epinephrine – another stress-related hormone – prompt the liver to step up production of glucose, which provides the body with the energy it needs in a flight or fight response. Diabetes can result when glucose levels are elevated for a prolonged period of time in those who are predisposed to the disease, such as overweight individuals and Native Americans.
- Ulcers can develop when nausea and other digestive issues exist without relief for an extended period of time.
- Some hair loss can occur six months or so after a particularly stressful event.
Dealing With How Stress Affects Your Body
Stress is the enemy, whether it results from a lot of frequent fight-or-flight rushes or a major lifetime change. You can’t change the trigger in a major lifetime event, and you may not be able to change your lifestyle, such as by quitting your job to take one that doesn’t have you on edge all the time. You can take steps to control how you react to stress, however.
- Exercise has proven to be a bona fide stress-buster. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of activity a day. If that’s not possible, at least commit to a walk around the block. Just get moving.
- Natural supplements like CBD from hemp. Most people are very aware of the benefits of medical marijuana but a new movement is sweeping the cannabis industry… CBD (Cannabidiol) from hemp. CBD from hemp has shown to have incredible benefits for relieving stress and anxiety and even helps with sleep disorders and a myriad of other ailments both common and serious. If you are looking for a great alternative to pharmaceuticals then we highly recommend you learn more about this new “miracle oil”
- Enlist the help of family and friends. Sometimes just talking things out can help immeasurably and take significant weight off your shoulders. Consider a support group if you’re short on sympathetic loved ones or pals.
- Never underestimate the power of a qualified mental health professional. They know all the tricks of the trade to help you get past your body’s natural response to what’s wrong in your life.
Finally, if you’re experiencing chest pains, or if your symptoms keep on even after you’ve taken steps to reduce the stress in your life, see your doctor. Your problem may not be stress at all, but an underlying physical ailment that should be treated as soon as possible.