Stress is a crazy, little thing. A small amount can be good, it can help you perform tasks with your best performance but too much, and too much can send your body into a tailspin!
First, let’s talk about what stress actually is. Stress is a physical and psychological response to things that happen in our everyday life. Your brain was created with a hard-wire alarm system, ready to protect you at the first sign of a threat. When your hypothalamus perceives stress as a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones that raise your blood pressure and increase your heart rate. Your body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode.
Once the threat is gone, your body should return to homeostasis and should relax, but due to the chaos of our everyday lives, most people’s alarm systems rarely shut off.
Chronic stress is all too common for so many of us, but it has severe consequences! Some basic symptoms of chronic stress include: irritability, headaches, insomnia, depression and anxiety.
Your Respiratory and Cardiovascular System:
Breathing is kind of important. When your body is in chronic stress and doesn’t recover from the “fight-or-flight” response, one of the first things it can affect is your lungs and your heart.
When you are stressed, you tend to breathe more quickly, in order to get the oxygen-rich blood distributed throughout your body. If you already having breathing problems, like asthma, this can increase the symptoms.
When you are stressed, your heart also pumps faster. You get that “my heart is beating out of my chest” feeling. Stress hormones can cause your blood vessels to constrict and will send more blood off to your muscles so you are able to more quickly react - but this comes at a cost and can raise your blood pressure. The harder your heart has to work, the more you increase your chance for a stroke or a heart attack.
Your Digestive System:
When your body is under stress, it causes your liver to produce more glucose to help give you a boost of energy. When you are dealing with chronic stress, your body may not be able to deal with that constant boost of extra sugar and it increases your risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Thanks to an increase of stomach acid, you are more likely to have an increase in acid reflux or heartburn. Chronic stress can also affect the way your body digests food - causing you diarrhea or constipation as well as nausea or stomach aches.
Your Immune System:
This is probably the one that hits closest to home. When your body is in stress, it triggers your immune system. This is a big plus if it is a situation where your body needs to heal or fight off an infection, but over time, stress hormones will weaken your body’s immune system and reduce your body’s defense against foreign invaders. People who are under chronic stress can take longer to heal from infections as well as being more susceptible to viral illnesses like a cold or the flu.
So, what are some ways you feel stress in your life?
Now that you can see how awful stress is for our bodies, stay tuned for some different ways you can help support your body’s response to stress!
Don't want to wait? Check out my guide on 3 Steps to Jump Start Your Health, you can get it here!