How Stress Affects Your Health
Since my diagnosis with Pyrrole Disorder a couple of years ago, I’ve become quite interested in the subject of stress and the ways that it impacts our health. Did you know that stress can have a profound impact on your health? In fact stress can be quite sneaky – creating health problems when you’re not even sure it’s there.
Living With Stress In A Modern World
In our modern world, most of us experience many forms of stress throughout our lives.
Some stress can be sudden and acute in nature such as a death in the family, an accident or some other kind of unexpected, but life altering trauma. When we experience this type of stress we generally realise it’s affecting us. We feel its effects because it has been thrust upon us suddenly.
Chronic stress on the other hand is often less recognised. Our lives today are full of so many things that eat at us on a day to day basis. Things like traffic, work, family and even the bad news that is constantly fed to us by the media, wear us down and stress us out, often without us really realising it.
However, whether acute or chronic in nature, stress can and does have its effects. Here are just some of the ways that stress can gradually undermine your health.
How Stress Affects Body Systems
The digestive organs have a tendency to take the brunt of our stress. This is why stress got such a reputation for causing ulcers. While ulcers are said to be caused by bacteria, some experts theorize that stress still plays a role by making an individual more susceptible to bacterial infection.
Stomach pain, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and other digestive disorders can be the result of stress.
The “fight or flight” response, which is a factor in the body’s response to stress, affects the digestive organs by temporarily shutting them down. You can imagine what havoc this can wreak on your digestive organs when your stress is chronic (and in conditions such as Pyrrole Disorder).
Excessive stress is said to disrupt hormones in both men and women. Women may experience menstrual irregularities, acne, problems in pregnancy or difficulties becoming pregnant. Men may experience impotency or other sexual dysfunction.
Both sexes may experience thyroid disease, diabetes or adrenal insufficiency.
The heart is directly affected by stress in that the “fight or flight” response involves its function.
The heart becomes stressed itself, which studies indicate can make you more prone to heart disease. Other sources note that stress particularly affects the cardiovascular system by exacerbating or even helping to bring on atherosclerosis (this is a deformation and narrowing of the arterial walls that results in decreased blood flow).
Upper Respiratory Illness
Many studies indicate the effect of stress on the immune system. Experts say that stress decreases the immune response and suppresses the immune system.
A suppressed immune system can leave you open to infections and illnesses which may include common diseases such as cancer and in particular, colds and flu.
Stress can affect your metabolism due to the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. This slowing of the metabolism can make weight loss difficult, and weight gain may occur even when you eat an appropriate amount of food and a healthy diet.
It’s also possible that stress makes you crave sugary foods, making weight gain even more probable. This is why some people call their eating habits “stress eating.”
Some experts even claim that stress affects where you gain weight. Excess weight around the abdominal region may be caused by stress.
The excessive weight gain that may be brought on by stress can result in a host of other health problems associated with obesity: heart disease, diabetes, joint problems, and perhaps even cancer.
Stress might manifest in anxious behavior. Excessive worry or obsessive-compulsive tendencies may be manifestations of an anxiety disorder brought on by stress.
Strategies To Help Manage Stress
If you want to enjoy good health, implementing strategies to manage stress is essential.
Simple habits like meditation, exercise and eating a clean, healthy diet can all help your body to handle stress, as can many natural therapies such as massage or reflexology.
Including activities that you really enjoy doing on a regular basis will also help immensely. These can be anything like dancing, singing, art, sports or even socialising with friends and family. The more you ‘love’ doing it, the more it affects you at a ‘soul level’, the more effective it will be at reversing the effects of stress.
Some nutritional supplements and herbs may also be of benefit. Magnesium, Zinc and Vitamin B6 are just a few that can help the body handle day to day stress.
And finally, a wonderful tool that can be very effective in managing all sorts of stress is EFT or Tapping. EFT can effectively change the way you respond to stress, which means that events that were once stressful may no longer affect you. Read my article about EFT here.