THE IMPACT OF STRESS ON YOUR BODY

With the holiday season around the corner, you may be well-acquainted with the experience of stress in your life. This time of year is classically associated with the hustle and bustle of those eagerly preparing for celebrations with family and loved ones. With all the rushing around, it is easy to ignore the toll the stressful holidays can take on your body.

Whether you’re experiencing stress from the holidays, big decisions, or a constant feeling of being under pressure, it is important to recognize the impact of stress on your body.

Experts agree that some stress can be healthy. Stress can motivate you to complete projects, help to prioritize tasks, and focus on what needs to get done. However, too much stress can leave the body operating on a deficit, and without the opportunity to recover, you may put yourself at risk for many health problems.

Here are some of the most common effects of stress on your body:

Nervous System

When under stress, the body, whether physically or psychologically, automatically shifts its energy reserves to fighting off the perceived threat. This is commonly known today as the “fight-or-flight response”, and can be observed in the body as the sympathetic nervous system triggers the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can be initially useful, causing the heart to beat faster, raise blood pressure, change the digestive process, and increase glucose levels in the blood stream. While traditionally these levels will return to normal after the crisis passes, traumatic stress may cause you to remain in this state of arousal, creating an experience of hypervigilance.

Musculoskeletal System

When stressed, a very common and noticeable response is tightened and tensed muscles. This occurs almost as a momentary reflex, as the body’s way of protecting against injury and pain. As with the the secretion of helpful hormones, our muscles tensing is immensely useful at first, however under chronic stress can lead to tension headaches, migraines and other musculoskeletal conditions.

Respiratory System

Rapid breathing associated with the stress response in the respiratory system is not always a problem. As with the other internal systems, it is the body’s adaptive way to handle perceived threats. However, for individuals with asthma or a lung disease, getting the oxygen you need into your system can be difficult.

Some recent studies have even indicated that acute stress like the death of a loved one can even trigger asthma attacks. In addition, the links between the rapid breathing involved in a stress response and hyperventilating or panic attacks is well documented in individuals prone to panic attacks.

Cardiovascular System

Under acute stress, the nervous system sends messages to the adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline and cortisol, which causes the heart to beat faster, and elevates blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels that increase blood flow into the heart, and increasing the amount of blood pumped elsewhere in the body. In constant stress, this can lead to many long-term complications for the heart and blood vessels, including increased risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke.

Endocrine System

The adrenal glands of the endocrine system are responsible for releasing the hormones responsible for alerting the rest of the body to the presence of the perceived threat, preparing for “fight or flight”. With chronic stress, the adrenal glands can become overworked and “adrenal fatigue” can cause extreme exhaustion and even low blood pressure.

Gastrointestinal System

Whether the problem resides in the esophagus, stomach, or bowls, or even in how much (or how little) you are eating, stress in the gastrointestinal system has the potential to lead to heartburn, acid reflux, severe stomach pain, gastric ulcers,  constipation, or diarrhea.

Reproductive System

Excess amounts of cortisol in the body can affect the biochemical functioning of the reproductive system in a number of ways. For males, chronic stress can affect testosterone production, sperm production and maturation, and even cause erectile dysfunction or impotence.

For women, increased stress may affect the onset or irregularity of menstrual cycles, not to mention increased difficulty in coping with pre-menstrual symptoms. On the other end of the spectrum, the stress of menopause nearing can be considered a stressor in and of itself. Emotional distress, or increased anxiety during that time is known to intensify the experience of physical symptoms, especially hot flashes. Finally, it has also been well-documented that women with increased stress, perhaps juggling multiple demands including personal, professional, child-rearing or financial concerns, may experience reduced sexual desire.

While this may not be considered an exhaustive list, it is important to recognize the effects that an increased and elongated experience of stress can subject on the body’s various systems. While humans are incredibly adaptive creatures, chronic stress will eventually take a toll on the body. This is just one of the many reasons why it is important to be active in your self-care strategies.

The Best Natural Health Solutions For Handling Stress

If you are looking for a natural stress management solution, we’re the best natural health center for you! We offer chiropractic, nutrition, massage, and many other natural solutions to help you to better handle stress. Please contact our friendly staff at the Natural Health Practices Port Orange office by calling (386) 307-8207.

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Natural Health Practices is Volusia County’s holistic health haven offering safe, natural, and effective solutions to many health problems. ​The team at Natural Health Practices believes in the body’s miraculous ability to heal without the use of drugs or surgeries.

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