5 Things Stress Does to You
First let me clarify the kind of stress I’m talking about.
Not the occasional stress that might even be useful or helpful to us – the kind that motivates us to achieve a deadline or perform at our best, but the chronic kind that many of us live with day in and day out, whether imposed externally or internally.
The kind that makes us anxious or fearful – the kind that evokes our “Fight or Flight” response, where our survival mode kicks in and only systems that are necessary to survive are working overtime to avoid that lurking tiger. Blood flow is diverted from every system that isn’t deemed necessary in order to flee the perceived danger and thus survive.
But at what cost?
1. Stress affects the digestive system – who needs to digest food when our very survival is at stake? No wonder food can feel like it’s just “sitting there” when we’re feeling tense, and so we get stomach aches, constipation or diarrhea, bloating…. Not a pleasant feeling. Ulcers can also result due to the adrenaline released during the stress response.
2. Stress affects the cardiovascular system – high blood pressure, heart disease, respiratory issues, increased blood cholesterol levels through the action of adrenaline and noradrenaline on the release of free fatty acids that produces a clumping together of cholesterol particles, leading to clots in the blood and in the artery walls.
3. Stress affects the immune system. Sugar isn’t the only immune system suppressant – so is prolonged stress. We get sick much more easily because white blood cells, T-cells and increased stress hormone corticosteroid production can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering the number of lymphocytes, those all-important white blood cells (along with phagocytes) that fight off antigens. Thus we are more susceptible to infections, including triggering the herpes virus that usually lies dormant in our nerve endings.
4. Stress affects the brain - that’s another big one. Stress can affect our emotions, thoughts and feelings.
The memory process can be affected, along with learning ability and the decision-making process. Ever make a bad decision while you were under stress? Who hasn’t?
5. Stress ages you! Who wants that, especially in today’s youth-oriented culture?
I’m okay with getting older - well, most of the time I am – but I’m not in a hurry to get there, either. Stress causes a chemical response in your body that makes your skin more sensitive and reactive – again, think hormones like cortisol, which tells glands in your skin to make more oil.
Stress can cause sleepless nights which can cause fluid to pool below your lower eyelid area and cause puffiness. And of course our worried facial expressions can lead to deeper wrinkles in those areas over time.
Prolonged or chronic negative stress affects every single system in the body, including our brains and also cause cause obesity, stroke, diabetes, pregnancy, anxiety, PTSD, overeating and other unhealthy habits….
Here’s a very helpful article that was published in 2017 in the EXCLI Journal that goes into much more depth if you care to explore further: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579396/ .
In my next blog post I’ll list some ways to improve your resistance to unhealthy stress.
See you then and if you have any comments, feel free to leave them the Comments section below!