The human body was designed to encounter stress and to react to it. But, whether it is a short-term frustration or a major life event like death of a loved one, job loss or divorce, psychological stress can affect your body.
Stress can also be highly personal, with one individual’s unpleasant experience, to be another’s exhilarating adventure. A little bit of stress is also thought to be good for motivation and memory. But, about 70% of doctor appointments and 80% of serious illnesses may be worsen or linked to stress.
Stress can have a wide range of effects on your mood, emotions and behavior. However, there are many things you can do such as meditation, exercise and more to lessen the impact of stress in your life.
Below are 9 ways stress can affect your body.
9 Ways Stress Affects Your Body:
Under stress, your muscles tense up. The contraction of muscle for extended period of time can trigger migraines, tension headache and various muscoskeletal conditions.
2. Digestive System
Diarrhea, heartburn and stomach cramping can all be caused by or worsened by stress.
In particular, IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, which is characterized by pain and bouts of diarrhea and constipation is thought to be fueled in part by stress. But, stomach ulcers, which are thought to be caused by stress, are triggered by H. pylori bacteria, can be treated with antibiotics.
The exact linked between stress and heart attack is still unclear, but evidence is mounting that there is one. A recent study of 200,000 employees in Europe reported that individuals who have stressful jobs and little decision-making power at work are 23% more likely to have a first heart attack as compared to people with less job-related stress.
The best thing to do is lead a heart-healthy lifestyle and focus on reducing stress in your life.
4. Immune System
Stress stimulates your immune system, which can be an advantage for immediate situations. This stimulation can help you heal wounds and avoid infections. But over time, stress hormones will weaken your immune system and thus reduce your body’s response to foreign invaders.
Individuals under chronic stress are more prone to viral illnesses such as the common cold and flu, as well as other infections. Also, stress can increase the time it takes you to recover from an injury or illness.
5. Muscular System
When you are stressed, your muscles tense up to protect themselves from injury. They tend to release again once you are relaxed, but if you are constantly under stress, your muscles may not get the chance to relax.
Tight muscles may cause back pain, shoulder pain, headaches and body aches. Over time, this can set off an unhealthy cycle, as you stop exercising and turn to pain medication for pain relief.
6. Nervous System
When stressed, psychologically or physically, your body suddenly shifts its energy resources to fighting off the perceived threat. In what is commonly known as the “fight or flight” response, the symphatic nervous system signals your adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline.
These hormones makes your heart beat faster, change the digestive process, raise blood pressure and boost glucose levels in the bloodstream. Once the threat passes, body systems usually return to normal.
7. Reproductive System
Stress is exhausting for both your mind and body. It is not surprising to lose your desire when you are under constant stress.
For men, short-term stress may cause them to produce more of the male hormone testosterone. But this effect may not last, if stress continues, a man’s testosterone levels can begin to decline. This can cause erectile dysfunction or impotence and interfere with sperm production. Chronic stress may also increase the risk of infection for male reproductive organs such as the testes and prostate.
For women, stress can affect their menstrual cycle. It can lead to heavier, irregular or more painful periods. Chronic stress can also increase the physical symptoms of menopause.
8. Respiratory System
Stress can make you breathe harder, cause rapid breathing or hyperventilation, which can bring on panic attacks on some people.
Stress can give you acne. Research suggests that students with acne are more prone to outbreaks during exams as compared to less stressful time periods. This is a result of an increase of male hormones which are known as androgens, particularly in women.
Also, stress can trigger psoriasis to appear for or make an existing case more severe. Some doctors are starting to use stress-management techniques like meditation and biofeedback into their treatment programs for the skin disease.