Can Stress Affect Your Health?
Modern day living involves a continuous bombardment of short bursts of stress known as acute stress: being stuck in traffic, an irate argument with your boss; pressure of meeting deadlines; financial worries; social media anxiety; sudden calls for crisis management concerning our teenage children or elderly parents. The list is endless.
Stress is primarily a physical response. The body thinks when undergoing stress that it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode prompting a number of physiological reactions to take place.
The brain is perceiving danger and starts to release a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine as it thinks it needs to prepare the body for physical action. The Sympathetic Nervous System kicks in causing the heart to beat faster and harder, the muscles to tense, the digestive system to slow down, a disruption in our blood sugar levels and an increase in our blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Of course, if the nervous system is continuously being activated to initiate the above reactions due to continuous episodes of acute stress then this becomes chronic stress. This naturally causes a drain on the mind and body, weakening our immune defences. It is no surprise therefore that eventually due to this continuous wear and tear on the body, illness and pain can manifest. Often many health conditions then go on to become persistent symptoms, including chronic pain, known as stress-induced conditions.
The psychological effects of stress
As well as the above physiological effects upon the bodily systems, intense and prolonged bouts of stress will also affect us psychologically, compromising our mental health which can cause anxiety and lead to depression. Intense stress that is not being managed properly can cause us to feel anger, irritability, moodiness, overwhelm, loneliness, distrust and fear which can ultimately impact upon our work and personal relationships.
Other psychological effects of stress can include: memory problems; inability to concentrate; poor judgement and constant worrying.
People experiencing intense stress may also display any of the following behavioural patterns: eating and sleeping too much or too little; procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities; turning to drugs, alcohol or cigarette for relaxation or withdrawing socially from others.
Acute bouts of stress can generally be managed and tend not to affect our health. It is when stress becomes part of our daily existence which is compounded by lack of self-care, very little work-life balance and lack of support to help access stress-managing strategies, that it can start to affect our health in ways that we can no longer afford to ignore.
Shaheen Jaffary is a Clinical Reflexologist and Wellness Coach helping people to attain emotional and physical health through various holistic therapies and mind body medicine. To book a treatment or a free consultation please click the following link: https://www.leedsholistichealth.co.uk/book-online
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