A little bit of stress can be the nudge we need to accomplish challenging tasks, take the next step in a significant goal, or even perform at a higher level. However, too much stress on the body can have serious adverse side effects. Today, we will share with you how stress can affect the body.
What is Stress?
You have likely felt stress in one form or another at this point in your life. Stress can be triggered when you are late for a meeting, need to perform on stage, are fighting with a loved one, and many other situations.
Essentially, when you are put into a stressful situation, your brain sends out stress hormones. These hormones trigger your body into a fight or flight response. This is a good thing in emergencies because it prepares your body to react quickly.
However, if your stress hormones stay elevated for too long, they can be detrimental to your health.
How Does Stress Affect Me?
According to the American Psychological Association, “Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems.” Therefore, we will briefly go through each area and explain how stress can affect these systems.
When you are stressed out, your muscles respond by tensing up. Again, this is how it should react in emergency scenarios, like if you need to run away. However, continued tensing of the muscles can cause headaches, muscle tension, and chronic pain.
Stress forces your respiratory system to respond by breathing faster. Continued rapid breathing can cause hyperventilation, asthma attacks, and other medical conditions for those with pre-existing respiratory issues.
Your cardiovascular system is centered around your heart. Your heart rate can become elevated in stressful situations while your body releases adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. In addition, when your heart rate increases, your blood vessels dilate to allow more blood through faster.
If your body maintains a stress situation, it can eventually lead to hypertension, heart attack, and stroke. Of course, this likely wouldn’t happen over hours but years of continued stress.
The endocrine system requires a careful balance of hormones to maintain a healthy body. When that system is thrown out of harmony with constant stress, it can lead to the over- or under-production of glucocorticoids, like the stress hormone cortisol.
Over time, this imbalance can lead to various mental and physical conditions, from chronic fatigue to obesity to depression and even immune system disorders.
The gastrointestinal system, or the gut, is a highly complex system that requires a precise level of bacteria. Stress can affect this bacteria, and cause discomfort, bloating, pain, ulcers, and even severe diseases or dysfunctions if not addressed.
Remember, the “gut” isn’t just your stomach; it’s your esophagus and bowels too. If stress is improperly managed, these areas can also be put at risk for health concerns.
The nervous system is your prime region for quick response times in dangerous situations. The nervous system will trigger specific hormones and body reactions to ensure that you can get to safety. When you are safe once again, the body returns to normal.
However, chronic stress keeps the body in this state of hyper-action, which can cause many of the above problems we already mentioned.
Lastly, even the reproductive systems can be affected by long-term stress. Both men and women can suffer from this problem.
For men, chronic stress can lead to declined libido, erectile dysfunction, less potent sperm, and reproductive diseases.
For women, it can lead to irregular or more painful menstrual cycles, reduced libido, decreased capability to conceive a child, unhealthy pregnancies, postpartum complications, heightened premenstrual syndrome, menopause complications, and reproductive diseases.
Reduce Your Stress
Are you ready to reduce the stress in your life? Check back in March for our next blog release on reducing stress!