We’ve all experienced stress once or twice (or more) in our lives. It’s a natural physical and mental reaction to life's experiences. Anything can trigger stress, from work responsibilities to serious life events or external factors. For in the moment, short term experiences, stress can actually be beneficial to your health, by helping you cope with some potentially serious situations. Your body responds to feeling stressed by releasing stress hormones, which increase your heart rate, your breathing rate and gets your muscles ready to respond.
However, as healthy as a good dose of stress can be - good things come in small packages. Feeling stressed for long periods of time - more than is necessary for survival - can take its toll on your health. Chronic stress and stress conditions can cause a number of physical symptoms, and affect your overall health.
Here are just some of the ways stress can impact you and your health negatively.
Central Nervous System
Your central nervous system is in charge of your fight or flight responses. When this gets activated, your hypothalamus in your brain sends a message to your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol - stress hormones. These are the hormones which speed up your heart beat, send your blood rushing. Now, when the fear is gone, your hypothalamus should tell the Central Nervous system to go back to normal. If this fails, all these stress responses will continue.
Being stressed can also affect your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. When you feel stressed, you breathe faster in an effort to distribute oxygen around your body. If you have any breathing problems such as asthma, this can make it even harder to breathe properly.
Chronic stress can also make your heart overworked. This is because under stress, your heart pumps faster, as the stress hormones make your blood vessels constrict and divert oxygen to your muscles - so you have more strength to take action. However, this raises your blood pressure. If this happens often, you raise your risk of having a stroke or a heart attack.
When you feel stressed, your liver produces extra blood sugar, or glucose, to give your body a much needed boost of energy. If you’re under more stress than usual, your body might not be able to handle all this extra sugar flowing through your body, and you can run the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Another disruption to your digestive system can come from the symptoms of stress - hormones rushing around your body, heavy breathing and faster heart rates can cause acid reflux and heartburn, due to an increase in stomach acid. Stress can also increase your risk of stomach ulcers.
In order to protect yourself from injury, your muscles tense up when you are feeling stressed. Once you relax, they release once more - but if you’re constantly feeling stressed then your muscles might not get the change to relax at all. Constantly tight muscles can cause headaches, back pain, shoulder pain, and overall body aching. Over time this can severely affect your health and mobility and can stop you from being active.
To avoid becoming overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, there are a few tips to help manage stress and avoid these physical symptoms.
Get Enough Sleep
When your fighting stress, your body really needs rest and a full night's sleep - at least eight hours! Having enough sleep can help to improve your mood, help you think with clarity, and allows you to handle stressful situations better when you’re sleep-deprived.
Being active can help you to alleviate symptoms of stress, as well as anxiety. Exercise can help to release endorphins and other ‘happy’ hormones, which makes you feel good. The results of working out can also boost your confidence and self-esteem. Try 30 minutes of moving a day.
When you’re feeling stressed out, fast food or sugary treats can be an easy coping mechanism. However, overindulging can leave you feeling sluggish, tired and more stressed than you were to begin with. To combat stress, stock up on brain foods such as fish, eggs, and vegetables to boost your brain health and improve your mood.
Learn Your Stress Triggers
If you’re noticing that your stress is brought on by specific situations, whether it’s something at work, something personal or something completely different, try to identify the patterns in how you’re feeling and write them down. This can be useful to find out what exactly is triggering your stress and can make it easier to handle and reduce the stress response in your body.
Deep Breathing Techniques
Learning deep breathing techniques can help to reduce stress symptoms such as rapid heartbeats. When you take a deep breath, the extra oxygen can help to ease your mind and gives you time to collect your feelings and thoughts. Try yoga, or meditation which promote deep breathing and can help to reduce stress.
Need some extra help in reducing stress? Sometimes stress can get the best of us. Give yourself an antidote to stress this week, with four classes designed to help you unwind, relax, and reset.
By Amy Cavill
Yoga helps you fight stress and stay healthy. Try these stress-relieving yoga classes, now!
1. Josey Prior - Settling into Pigeon
2. Keith Allen - Evening Stress Relief Yoga
3. Tana Pittman - Kundalini: Be Radiant & Stress-Free
4. Kylie Larson - Yoga to Unwind
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