The Effects of Stress On Your Health
I’m sure most of us experience some sort of stress on a daily basis. Whether its traffic, running late, taking care of your family, etc., stress is simply apart of life. And while this day-to-day stress is completely normal, it becomes a problem when it happens frequently.
In fact, chronic stress can wreak havoc on your body. Recent studies have revealed just how dangerous chronic stress can be in relation to your health. So how exactly does stress impact your health? What are some ways you can reduce and manage your stress?
1. The Stress Response and How It Impacts Your Health
The first step in learning how to manage your stress is understanding how your body responds to stress. When you are faced with a dangerous or stressful situation, your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body.
Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones. Some of the hormones released include adrenaline and cortisol.
Cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone, increases sugars in the bloodstream. Additionally, it enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. When cortisol is released into your body, it alters the way it functions.
For example, It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation, and fear.
2. When Stress Turns Into Chronic Stress
The way your body responds to stress is completely natural and is usually self-limiting. Once the situation causing you stress passes, your hormone levels and bodily functions return to normal.
However, when you are constantly under stress, this fight-or-flight reaction stays activated. The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
These are only a few of the effects of stress on your body, which is why it’s so important to manage your stress.
3. Healthy Ways To Manage Your Stress
It’s impossible to feel calm and relaxed all the time, however, it’s important to know how to manage stress when it happens. You can learn to identify what stresses you and how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the face of stressful situations.
Some healthy stress management methods include:
- Exercise: Although exercise is probably the last thing you want to do when your stressed, it’s one of the best stress relievers out there. Exercising increases the levels of endorphins in your body, which stimulate your immune system, reduce stress, and put you in a better mood.
- Relaxation Techniques: There are a wide variety of relaxation techniques out there, but it’s all about what works best for you. Yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massages, and reading are all great ways to relax and unwind.
- Having a Balanced Diet: Not only is a healthy balanced diet crucial for your overall health, but it’s also crucial when it comes to managing your stress. Leafy greens, berries, and healthy fats all contain nutrients that help reduce stress.