HOW STRESS IMPACTS OUR HEALTH
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
- 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
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
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
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
Mental health issues develop
Mental health illness symptoms can start appearing
with depression and suicidal tendencies.
Common Symptoms and Diseases Associated with Stress
Keep Reading :
Next: How Stress
Impacts Performance At Work and Home
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