What are the effects of stress on the body?
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Who is the biggest enemy in your life? Is it your unfriendly ex, your mean boss, or that old high school bully? Whoever you think it is, I bet you weren’t thinking it would be the monster we’re all so familiar with, Stress… What are the effects of stress on the body?
We can feel the stress response kick in if we are worried about our kids, husband, deadlines at work, exams, promotions, finances, or even if we worry about what others think about us! What seems to get you stressed the most? Unfortunately, we can’t rid the world of stress, but we can certainly manage the effects of stress on our body.
How do you feel when you are under stress? Do you feel anxiety? Emotional? How about tension or pain? I know I feel a tightness in my chest, my head hurts, and often times I am short tempered.
Can you describe what is actually happening inside your body to the organs and systems that are resulting in these feelings?
It is good to get a “visualization” of what is going on inside your body. This will help you develop a greater understanding of the dangerous effects of stress on your body.
Effects of Stress on the heart and blood vessels
The heart is a muscle in the purest sense of the word. A healthy heart has very little fat, and is extremely efficient, contracting like clockwork for the duration of your existence.
However, stress hormones change all this. For one, under their influence, the heart starts to beat much more rapidly. This is partially in response to the stimulating action of these hormones, but also because blood vessels are constricted. To understand this, think of a water pump.
You can use a one-half inch pipe to supply water, or a larger one-inch sized pipe. When using the half-inch size, the pump needs to work harder to push the same volume of water, or it would take forever. It is similar to your heart, except that it has a quota to maintain to ensure your cells don’t die from oxygen starvation.
You can find yourself screaming or so frustrated that your blood pressure rises. When this happens you can experience shortness of breath and even stroke or heart attack if it is ongoing and happens often. This is a severe stress-related issue that should be held above the others as a focus and important cause to reduce your stress.
Effects of Stress on your digestive system
Do you ever notice that when under stress or anxiety that you feel “butterflies” in your stomach, and find it difficult to hold your food- or bowels? This is directly the result of these hormones.
Under stress, the stomach produces more acid. This either helps speed digestion (and the desires to empty your bowels) or acid reflux and heartburn. That is why stomach ulcers are said to be more frequent in people who are under high stress.
In the intestines, since food seems to move faster than usual, nutrient deficiencies can occur, along with diarrhea.
Effects of stress on the respiratory system
Respiration is tied intimately to our circulatory system. This partly explains why during exercise your heart pumps faster and you breathe faster. Blood needs oxygen. In most people, this is fine, and not a problem, but for asthmatics or those with pulmonary disease it can kill you.
Stress can cause asthma attacks, or constriction of the airways making it difficult to breathe. Hyperventilation is also common, and a characteristic of panic attacks.
Effects of stress on the reproductive system
Nothing wrecks your bedroom cuddle time like stress, as millions can testify to. This isn’t just psychological it is physical too. In women, menstrual cycle disturbances occur, which can cause painful periods or wildly fluctuating hormone levels throughout the month.
Effects of stress on the endocrine glands
Endocrine glands are those body parts (some of them organs) that produce hormones which are deposited into the body’s bloodstream. These organs include the adrenal glands, the liver, and pancreas. The adrenal glands are forced to produce more cortisol and adrenaline which is the two key stress hormones.
In response to this, the liver may begin releasing stored glycogen in the form of glucose, to tend to your seemingly agitated state. The pancreas may also begin producing more insulin, and if the stress response resolves, everything goes back to normal.
However, those that are diabetic, pre-diabetic or who have sensitivity issues to glucose will find not all that circulating sugar goes back into storage. It is instead free to pick trouble. This is why stress is very bad for diabetics.
Now what will you do with this information?
So as you can see there is a lot going on right? Did you realize all this was happening when you were under stress? I know I didn’t until I really dived into research on stress in my own life. All I knew was I was exhausted all day and didn’t sleep well at night. I also had high blood pressure and digestive issues.
The good thing is as you remove stress from your daily life, you will start to find the long-term effects reduce as well. To remove them completely, you will need to focus on each aspect and work to make sure that your stress does not get to a level that the long-term issues rise again.
A few things you can do to reduce the effects of stress is to have a regular exercise routine, meditate, and eat a healthy diet. There are so many more things you can do. I created a guide with 101 Stress-Busting Techniques.
In this guide, you’ll discover how to manage stress in your everyday life with simple daily strategies that work! Download it today for free.
Other blogs about stress:
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