Even the simplest act of getting up early can be a source of stress for many. Every time you withdraw happiness from your bank account, a look at the receipt can cause stress.
Your academic results, your attendance at the office, your medical bills, your utility bills, and those unexpected moments when your friends decide to dump their load on your fragile shoulders; all these moments are synonymous to stress.
But this is a multi-faceted story that deserves a critical analysis.
Good Stress and Bad Stress
Stress in itself isn’t evil. In fact, some stress is actually good stress.
Imagine encountering robbers at the end of a deserted alley – it is the sudden stress that enables you to react in this situation. Stress gives you the added boost of energy that allows you to speed back to a safer spot. Or, it gives you the strength to give the square-jawed felon a well-deserved bruise. At moments like these, one wonders where they get the strength to do things they never thought capable of. Well, the secret ingredient is stress.
Stress is directly related to your fight-or-flight mechanism.
Some amounts of stress can actually bolster your immunity as well. Some experts believe stress keeps people motivated to their cause, their purpose of life as well. Workplaces are powerhouses of stress for a reason; some amount of stress is linked to high productivity as well. So it isn’t all that bad as it is propagated.
However, being under excessive stress for prolonged periods can achieve quite the opposite. It is chronic stress that wins this “reaction” its bad name.
Here’s how chronic stress can impact your life.
The body is a complex system of several processes working in cohesion to maintain balance. Chronic stress attacks each one of them, diminishing functioning as a whole. Here’s what you’ll experience when you’re under chronic stress.
1. Unexplained muscular or skeletal pains
The incidence of stress signals fight-or-flight, which automatically prepares your body (muscles in particular) to achieve the extraordinary. Your muscles feel tighter, possibly even stronger. Chronic stress keeps these muscles in such a state more or less constantly. Naturally, you’ll experience unexplained pains throughout the body, particularly near the head, neck, and shoulders.
2. Difficulty in breathing
Of all the reactions produced by your body in reaction to stress, elevated breathing is one you’ll surely notice. It’s next to impossible to miss out on the sensation that your heart is about to jump outside the body. And if you’re already prone to breathing issues, it might’ve produced something like a life and death situation for you.
Chronic stress puts your respiratory system under constant pressure too. Your lungs get tired without adequate rest, and will eventually threaten to retire. Frequent episodes of breathlessness should not be considered normal.
3. Cardiovascular diseases
Yes, stress does impact the heart and it’s no news to anyone. Your heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. Under stress, it is momentarily forced to speed up the process. Under chronic stress, it is constantly doing so. Naturally, the heart wears out, giving in to a series of cardiovascular diseases that are a bit too common already. There’s a reason why heart-related drugs market size is constantly increasing.
4. Excessive “Stress Hormones”
Even your nervous system goes into an overdrive. The pituitary gland produces stress hormones which are primarily responsible for initiating all those emergency procedures that aid in the fight-or-flight response. Excessive stress, however, keeps these hormones in unusual quantities inside the blood at all times, keeping the body at high alert. It affects pretty much every other system because of it.
5. Premature Aging and Reduced Immunity
People who are constantly in a state of stress experience premature aging. Their hairs gray out sooner, their skin sags, their muscle mass drops unexpectedly, and all other signs of aging appear much quicker.
They experience reduced immunity as well since their body is overworked and unable to rest. The body cells begin to give up, much like that overstressed employee who finally gets the courage to throw in their resignation. So chronically stressed individuals fall ill often, have no real sense of direction or the motivation to go on with life, experience depression in its worst form, and will continue to struggle in silence because it is quite a challenge to get out of this vicious circle.
6. Gastrointestinal distress
Under stress, the gastrointestinal system also goes a little haywire. The absorption of nutrients has to be quickened to provide for all other bodily functions so it moves the food along quickly. Under chronic stress, this equates to constant discomfort, frequent diarrhea, possibly coupled with nausea and lack of appetite. Basically, the body dispels the food you eat and also discourages you to eat more; thereby limiting energy reserves. So if you’re constantly feeling tired without moving a muscle, you know it has little to do with your activity levels and more to do with the stress you are in.
7. Decreased sexual activity
Last, we’ve yet to find a person who feels drawn to sexual activity when their body clearly advises the contrary. Stress not only decreases sexual activity, but it also impacts both the male and female reproductive system in ways that inhibit fertilization. In other words, overly stressed individuals can’t create (healthy) babies.
Ways to Overcome
There are several ways to overcome chronic stress.
Top of this list is identifying the problem – that you are chronically stressed – and seeking help for it. If you’re not comfortable visiting stress clinics in person, the next best thing you can do is find the right telemedicine platforms.
Stress isn’t something to be ashamed of.
Humans aren’t born pre-learned about the ways of life. We’re all struggling to get somewhere, learning a lesson or two along the way. Seek help; because no one else can do that for you and because it’s the best gift you can give yourself!
James Crook is a passionate health and fitness blogger. Currently, he is working with Centra Care –Urgent Care Tampa. Follow @jamescrook911 for more updates.