Stress can have profound effects on our mental health. It can cause us to lose focus, or it can trigger depression or anxiety. It might affect our memory, and it can have a negative impact on our relationships with others. But did you know that stress can adversely affect our physical health as well?
The Physiology of Stress
In addition to the changes that stress brings forth in our minds, it causes a number of physiological responses. Here is how it works:
1. First, we experience the stress alarm reaction. This is commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. Hormones and chemicals, including adrenaline and endorphins, flood into the bloodstream, and we experience a sudden burst of energy. This increases our blood pressure and breathing rate. Digestion slows down, and blood rushes to our major organs.
2. Once the initial threat has passed, our bodies move into a stage called stress resistance. The body begins to function somewhat normally again, but it is still on alert. It begins to repair any tissue that was damaged during the initial stage of stress.
3. The third stage is stress exhaustion. This occurs when we experience ongoing stress. This stage is where the most damage is done. The immune system may be suppressed thanks to an overabundance of certain chemicals, and the cardiovascular system often suffers.
What Do These Responses Do to Our Bodies?
The end results of too much stress can be detrimental to our health. The strain it puts on our cardiovascular system can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure or stroke. We might gain weight due to changes in metabolism or eating habits. Our immunity might become impaired to the point that we get sick more frequently. Stress has also been known to be a major factor in the formation of many stomach ulcers.
Stress can also affect our bodies in ways that are less serious but rather bothersome. It can cause headaches and body aches. It might lead to skin breakouts. It can affect our sleep patterns. It can cause sexual dysfunction. And it can make us more susceptible to allergy symptoms.
Health problems that we already have are often made worse by stress. This is especially true for disorders that are connected to the nervous system, such as chronic pain, digestive problems, and bowel disorders. If these ailments are present, excessive stress can make a bad situation worse.
We all experience stress. It is a normal, unavoidable part of life. But too much stress can cause numerous problems for us. That’s why it is so important for us to learn how to handle stress effectively. Doing so will reduce its harmful effects on both the mind and the body.