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HOW STRESS IMPACTS OUR HEALTH

 

Stress Impact

Stress affects our behaviour, our body physiology, and ultimately our performance. Let’s briefly look at each of these areas.


Behavioural Effects of Stress

When under pressure we tend to adopt comforting habits; many of which are not assisting us in our anti aging and wellness goals. From simple things like biting fingernails, we also respond by:

  • Irritable behaviour affecting relationships
  • Hiding from reality – refusing to accept the situation and start resolving it, further compounding the sense of lack of progress
  • Lack of exercise – staying in bed, taking sick days off work, blobbing out watching television. These are all avoidance behaviours
  • Eating comfort foods – often sweet foods lacking in nourishment and further eroding your energy
  • Not preparing nutritional meals – using fast food take outs
  • Not caring for your body – lack of skin care
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Destructive sex
  • Lack of sleep or poor sleep.

All of these acting out behaviours only serve to further add to your existing stress. Not only do they not help resolve the situation causing the stress, they fail to add anything beneficial to your life, and only serve to make you feel guilty and less in control.

 

Physiological Effects of Stress - Stress Physiology

The brain and pituitary gland respond to stress by releasing adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This stimulates our adrenals to increase production of the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. Other hormones that affect metabolism and water balance may also be released.

Release of Stress Response Hormones

Epinephrine and norepinephrine, known as the adrenalines stimulate the heart, increase blood pressure and heart rate, and constrict certain blood vessels to increase blood flow to the muscles and brain and to decrease it to the digestive tract and internal organs, preparing us for the "battle" with the "danger," wherever it is.

Adrenaline also raises blood sugar, as it stimulates the liver to produce and release more glucose (and cholesterol) into the blood so our cells will have the energy we need. All of this results in an increased rate of metabolism. Stress experienced around the time of eating thus diverts the energy needed for efficient digestion.

Body’s nutrients are used more rapidly

To meet the increased biochemical needs of metabolism, so we require increased amounts of many of these nutrients. Problems such as "irritable bowel" or "spastic colon," tension headaches, or neurogenic bladder disease, are made primarily by excluding the "real diseases." are triggered by stress.

Athletes experience extra physical stress and executives experience more mental stress; stress is also a factor in the aging process. Stress can occur at all levels of our being. There are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual stress factors involved in almost all diseases.

Some Medical Conditions Worsen

Particular medical conditions that have a high stress component include asthma and allergies, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases, arthritis, and cancer. Surgery, viral conditions, and environmental chemical exposure may be short-term problems with high stress components.

The physiological effects of excessive stress are more complex; many areas are well understood, whilst others are subject to debate.

We have already discussed how stress response releases hormones into the body to rigger certain physical responses. Many of these are designed to be short term triggers only, and should the stress hormones continue, the body starts protecting itself by shutting down the transmitters of these chemicals. This starts a progression of physiological changes such as:

Raising the resting heart rate

The blood vessels in the heart constrict to allow more blood to the muscles to support action; prolonging this state could result in insufficient blood reaching the heart to meet its own demands, leading to a heart attack.

Increasing blood pressure

This can lead to damage of the arteries.

Damaging the immune system

Increasing occurrences of short term illnesses such as headaches, colds and flus. It may also intensify symptoms in existing diseases that have an autoimmune component, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Longer term new problems can arise such as irritable bowel syndrome and cancer.

Mental health issues develop

Mental health illness symptoms can start appearing with depression and suicidal tendencies.

 

Common Symptoms and Diseases Associated with Stress

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Weight changes
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Irritable bowel
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Infections
  • Allergies
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Sexual problems
  • Cancer
  • Muscle tension
  • Neck and back pains
  • Premenstrual symptoms
  • Atherosclerosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Psychological problems

 

 

Keep Reading :

Next: How Stress Impacts Performance At Work and Home

Stress Index | Happiness | Sex | Money | Stress | Burn-Out | Affect on Health | Stress & Performance | Managing Stress | Action & Stress | Emotion & Stress | Anti-stress Nutrition | Quick Fix | Tools | Stress Response Methods | Depression | Midlife Crisis | Life Coach Series

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