There's no getting around the fact stress is a part of everyday life. While everyone's level of stress is different, science has found a very real connection between stress and our physical health.
Stress is the body's response to an obstacle or challenging situation. It can send us into "fight or flight mode" and cause feelings of anxiety or panic, sweaty palms and overall nervousness. What triggers stress is different for everyone. Common stressors are money, work, family, and school, but phobias and social situations can also cause stress. How everyone copes with stress is also different, but when it isn't dealt with, there are many well documented ways it can manifest into physical symptoms that can pose more long-term health risks.
Side Effects of Stress
Stress doesn't just keep you from focusing or making decisions at home, at your job or at work. Here are some ways excessive and prolonged stress can impact your physical wellbeing:
1. Weight Gain -- The stress hormone is known as cortisol. When our bodies are under stress, this hormone is released to try and deal with it, but having too much cortisol in the body is no good either. Cortisol can lead to weight gain, specifically in the abdomen, which puts strain on the internal organs.
2. Skin Problems -- Just like cortisol can lead to weight gain, it can also cause acne to develop. That explains the zit that magically appears the day of your big presentation or before an exam. When you're under stress, the best thing to do for your skin is try to eat well, drink plenty of water and get some sleep.
3. Poor Sleep -- This seems like an obvious one, but it's the trickle-down effect poor sleep has that is of more concern. When you don't sleep properly, you become more susceptible to illness, such as heart disease or diabetes, your skin ages and you can also gain weight, just to name a few of the disadvantages.
4. Weakened Immune System -- In the midst of a stressful week or month, have you ever gotten sick and exclaimed it was "the last thing you needed?" As mentioned in the previous point, stress affects how well your immune system responds to threats of infection and illness. When you're under stress, your body is less on guard to fight of viral, bacterial and fungal infection.
5. Addictive Behaviors -- According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can make you more prone to addiction. Whether it be food, alcohol, drugs or another form of hazardous behavior, you're more likely to take drastic measures to cope with your stress.
6. Low Sex Drive -- Stress can definitely impact your relationship with your spouse or partner. All of the stress in your life can become distracting and make intimacy the last thing on your mind.
7. Aches and Pains -- If you suffer from frequent muscle aches or headaches, your stress may be to blame. When the body is under stress, you ten to tense up all your muscles lock up. This can mean muscle or joint pains or the a headache or migraine.
If you think stress may be to blame for how you're feeling, try keeping a journal. You can write down the symptom you're experiencing what you were doing and how you felt before the symptom started and while it was going on. You can then try some different techniques to lessen the stress and document if they help.
Other Ways to Manage Stress
Maintaining balance in your life is key to keeping stress at bay. You need to control the chaos as best you can and know how to dial down the anxiety you may be feeling when faced with difficult times. You can manage stress in your daily life by exercising -- find a method you enjoy and can stick with it. Whether it's walking, kickboxing or dancing, it will help. You can also meditate, read, listen to music or find another way to channel your stress into something creative, like painting.
Natural and holistic ways to manage stress include aromatherapy, with herbs like lavender and chamomile and certain supplements that can affect the way your body responds to stress. In particular, magnesium (a mineral), B vitamins and herbs like rhodiola and relora can help to calm you and prevent you from reacting negatively to stressful situations. Relora is known to curb stress eating, which can lead to significant weight gain.
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