Stress is something that we all go through, but we rarely think about its long-term effects on our bodies. We all have good stressors and harmful stressors in our life.
Good stressors may stem from working hard in a fulfilling job position, getting an adrenaline rush on a roller coaster, or competing in your favourite event. Good stress is what keeps us excited about life and ready to take on new challenges.
On the other side of the coin, there is bad stress. Bad stress is often scientifically known as acute stress, which usually comes on quickly and can turn chronic if not managed.
Often good stress can turn to bad stress and vice versa, but all of it affects you.
So, how does stress affect your body?
Short/Long-Term Heart Problems
Probably one of the most severe results of stress is that it can cause cardiovascular distress. Increased stress increases the heart rate, leading to high blood pressure, damaged arteries, and heart attacks. On top of these heart problems, chronic stress can also cause other health issues such as an increased risk of stroke and inflammation in the body's circulatory system.
Fatigue and Lack of Sleep
Increased stress can lead to you having a harder time falling asleep, which often leads to insomnia. With a lack of sleep, many more issues can stem from the chronic or acute stress your body is going through. Mentally, a lack of sleep from stress can lead to depression, lack of motivation, and decreased awareness or cognition. Physically, a lack of sleep can lead to increased chances of obesity or Type 2 diabetes and also a weakened immune system. In the end, a lack of sleep due to stress can cause you more stress in the long run because you may not feel like you are performing at your best ability. When a lack of sleep occurs, your ability to make clear decisions, accept and complete tasks, and go through your day with more confidence decreases.
Your brain and your gut are in constant communication with each other. It's what gives you butterflies in your stomach when you're nervous. It is proven that stress changes your gut bacteria because of the communication between the neural system and your gastrointestinal tract. If you encounter high levels of stress, this can drastically affect your gastrointestinal system and lead to digestive and stomach issues later on.
Besides these significant pieces, here are some other ways that stress can affect your body negatively:
- rapid breathing
- chest pains
- muscle pains
- fertility issues
- lower sex drive
While stress is not always preventable, there are so many ways to manage it to prevent it from getting to the point that it can severely impact your long-term mental and physical health.
From practicing simple breathing exercises to talking to healthcare professionals or participating in a healthy activity that helps your relieve stress can be the difference in your health. So next time you are feeling stressed out, take a minute to assess your situation, look into what's making you stressed, and how it can be mitigated.