The history of stress is quite interesting.
The term “stress” was borrowed from the field of physics by one of the pioneers of stress research, Hans Selye.
He contended that stress was a non-specific strain on the body caused by certain irregularities in normal body functions. This condition resulted in the release of stress hormones.
Albeit the causes of stress may vary, its effect on our body can be profound. Stress can throw off our hormonal balance, exhaust your body, as well as your mind. More often than not, the adverse effects of stress include sleep and diet irregularities. If not addressed on time, these can lead to potentially dangerous health conditions.
In our fast-paced everyday life, we very often turn a blind eye to the fact that we’ve been stressed up.
Sometimes we think we can manage stress single handedly, while in fact we end up internalizing it.
By doing this, we seriously compromise our well-being, both physical and emotional. People who tend to internalize stress the most usually work long hours – either because they have to, or because they are just addicted to their job.
Is stress sneaking up on you? Here are eight ways to tell:
1. Your digestive system is out of control.
The symptoms may include stomach pain, cramps, nausea, diarrhea, excessive flatulence, or indigestion. In some rare cases, high stress levels can lead to chronic constipation. This is so, because because the stress hormones in your blood slow down the process of food digestion.
If untreated, these conditions can lead to complications such as gastritis, and even ulcer. Your appetite may become insatiable or absent at times, causing you to gain or lose weight rapidly. Research has shown that people who tend to internalize stress are quite prone to binge-eating. This is so, because stress unlocks the so-called “fight or flight” response that releases a hormone called cortisol into our bloodstream.
2. You have developed a short temper.
You don’t mean to snap at your loved ones, but sometimes you can’t help it. You have a low tolerance for irritating behavior and thoughtless actions. You would like to be patient. You just don’t have the energy. After you lose your cool, you feel awful.
Scientists now distinguish two major types of stress. Healthy stress (Eustress) is what gets us out of bed in the morning and makes more efficient in the office. Eustress does not trigger anger or irritability. Believe it or not, but if we could eradicate stress completely from our lives, we would most probably become lazy and lose our motivation to work.
Distress, on the other hand, is a type of stress that makes us irritable and short-tempered. When stress is too much, it ceases to be a driving force. So, our angry outburst are directly linked to the excessive amount of stress we’ve internalized.
3. You sometimes feel tightness, tension, or pain in your chest.
You may even experience heart palpitations. You might worry that you are developing a heart problem, which could cause farther anxiety. Even one single episode of chest pain is a strong indicator that your stress level is way too high.
According to the American Heart Association, stress can trigger behaviors that are bad for the heart such as overeating, chain-smoking and sedentary lifestyle. All of these can cause high blood pressure and can increase the level of bad cholesterol in our bodies, which in turn can lead to heart issues.
4. Internalizing stress can lead to chronic fatigue
You find it difficult to concentrate. When you wake up in the morning, your mind and body are completely exhausted, as if you’ve just pulled an all-nighter. This state of chronic fatigue may cause you to overeat and overindulge in caffeine, thus exacerbating the problem.
A number of studies like this one have established a clear link between chronic fatigue and stress. According to staff nutritionist Kelsey Marksteiner, the so-called Hypothalamic-Adrenal-Pituitary (HPA) axis is the body’s command center for rapid response to stress.
When we encounter a stress factor, our body releases a cascade of hormones that stimulate the production of other hormones like cortisol in the adrenals. Our body’s natural stress response is very effective in a true “fight or flight” situation. The problem is that in everyday life we constantly activate the HPA axis for small stressors like traffic jams or missing our flight.
Due to constant activation, the adrenals can become “worn-out”. People with hypoadrenalism will experience fatigue, depression, and low cortisol levels. All these symptoms are also oresent in people with the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
5. Your sex drive is at zero.
When we get too stressed up, we do not think about sex at all. Worse still, the intimate invitations of our partners may trigger responses of annoyance and irritation. This happens because stress inhibits the chemical reaction that controls our natural sex drive. It can even cause fertility problems in both men and women.
Researchers have firmly established that a stressful environment can diminish our interest in sex. Thus, both men and women who work long hours, or who have stressful jobs, can experience periods of sheer disinterest in lovemaking.
6. Your immune system isn’t working properly.
You seem to have a permanent cold all winter, complemented by frequent bacterial and viral infections. Stress weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to all kinds of illnesses.
The link between high levels of stress and impaired function of the immune system isn’t new. In fact it was first established in the 1980s. Over a ten-year period (1982-1992), Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, and immunologist Ronald Glaser, PhD, of the Ohio State University College of Medicine studied the effects of stress on human health.
The researchers noticed that the students’ immunity went down every year during the three-day exam period. They had fewer natural killer cells, which fight tumors and infections. In addition, their bodies almost stopped producing immunity-boosters like gamma interferon, while their infection-fighting T-cells responded poorly to test-tube stimulation.
7. You indulge in your vices more frequently than you used to.
Whether your poison is food, alcohol, cigarettes, or something else, you are turning to it more than you’d like to admit. You may be hiding this from friends and family to keep them from worrying, but this changes nothing.
In fact, this is one of the most common compensatory mechanisms when it comes to stress management. As I already mentioned above, these “little vices” can have adverse effects on your health in the long run. And all of this because of your tendency to internalize stress instead of let the steam off.
8. You experience frequent headaches.
These may range from common tension headaches to full-blown fits of migraine. The pain may extend to your neck, or it may be most intense behind your eyes. It’s as if your head is literally exploding from trying to contain so much stress.
Although there’s not direct evidence that stress causes headache, it has been scientifically proven that it can exacerbate an already existing problem. People with migraine are more likely to suffer worse and longer bouts, if they internalize their anxiety, or if they worry too much.