Your body is an amazing machine that was designed to survive. All of your vital organs have a role in that survival. When there is perceived danger, your various systems will slow or shut down to focus your resources on keeping you safe. Digestion stops, blood flow is restricted, adrenaline and cortisol production is increased, breathing becomes shallow, heart races…all of these are a reaction to stress.
What is stress?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, stress is your body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts. Even positive life changes such as a promotion, a mortgage, or the birth of a child produce stress.
Our bodies are designed to experience stress and react accordingly. Stress can be a good thing. It keeps us alert and ready to escape danger. However, when a person experiences chronic or continuous stress without relief, that’s where we get into trouble. Our bodies have a built-in stress response in the autonomic nervous system which causes us to develop physiological changes when we are under stress that allow us to “save” ourselves under dangerous circumstances. This is known as the “fight or flight” response and is activated in the case of perceived emergency. When behaving normally, the fight or flight response will be activated when a dangerous situation presents itself but as soon as the danger is removed, our system should return to normal. Under chronic stress however, this response never shuts off and may result in emotional and physical harm long term.
How does stress affect us?
A body under constant and continuous stress will likely develop physical and mental or emotional symptoms such as: headache, digestive issues, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, anti-social behavior, chest pain, elevated blood pressure, and many other health issues. Chronic stress could also lead to poor lifestyle choices such as: poor food choices, excessive drinking, reckless behavior and is linked to several disease states. Stress is linked to several of the leading causes of death like heart disease, accidents, cancer and suicide.
People under chronic stress are more likely to engage in dangerous or compulsive behaviors like gambling, casual sex, pornography and overuse or abuse substances such as: tobacco, alcohol, recreational drugs, and shopping. Ironically, the behaviors used by people trying to alleviate stress actually end up adding to and increasing the stress level. The victims are trapped in a vicious, never-ending cycle of chronic stress.
What should we do to minimize stress?
The Mayo Clinic suggests ways to minimize or alleviate the effects of stress on the body. They suggest practicing relaxation technics like: deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi, regular massage (my favorite). Get regular exercise or other kinds of physics activity. Socialize with people you love or at least like, engage in relaxing hobbies and don’t take yourself or your life so seriously. Be sure to get enough good quality sleep, make healthy food choices, avoid using tobacco and recreational drugs, and avoid excess alcohol and caffeine intake.
The effects of stress on the body often look like health issues. If you have taken steps to lower or eliminate the stress in your life and you still experience symptoms, see your health professional. There could be something else going on. If you experience shortness of breath, chest pressure or pain, dizziness or pain in arms or shoulders upon exertion, seek immediate and emergent help. These could be signs of a cardiac event and must be addressed immediately.
Stress is an inevitable part of life but if it is unrelenting, it can be a troublemaker that you do not need. Pay attention to the stressors in your life and do your best to eliminate them or at least minimize them.
As a health coach, I empower women to overcome health challenges and live a fuller, happier, more energetic life. If you would like to have a free consultation about the health challenges you have and the improvements you would like to see in your health, click www.karensammer.com/contact to schedule a no strings attached call.