Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but it can negatively impact your physical and mental health when it becomes chronic. Stress affects the body in various ways, from increasing blood pressure to disrupting sleep patterns. It can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating or developing an eating disorder. So what does stress do to the body, and how can you manage it? Take a closer look.
The Physical Impact of Stress
When you experience stress, your body automatically goes into fight-or-flight mode, sending hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into your systems. This increases your heart rate and blood pressure while decreasing digestion and immunity. Prolonged exposure to these hormones can put you at risk for serious health issues like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorders, and cancer. It’s important to understand how stress affects each individual differently to identify when you feel overwhelmed before it becomes a serious issue.
Heart Disease: Stress can lead to an elevated heart rate, which can cause your blood vessels to narrow. This increases the risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart attacks. This is because the body works overtime to process the released hormones.
Sleep Disorder: Stress can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to excessive tiredness during the day and difficulty falling asleep at night. Poor sleep has been linked to an increased risk of developing depression, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic health issues.
Eating Disorder: Stress can cause you to overeat or develop an anorexia nervosa, where you starve yourself. These unhealthy coping mechanisms can lead to serious health problems like obesity and malnutrition.
Diabetes: Stress floods the body with hormones that affect blood sugar levels. This is because the body is trying to cope with the additional stress by releasing more glucose into the bloodstream. This can lead to type 2 diabetes or make existing diabetes worse.
Mental Disorder: Stress can cause or worsen mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones can lead to cognitive decline, memory problems, and impaired judgment.
Common Causes of Stress
Both physical and psychological factors can cause stress. You may notice that certain activities, such as work or school-related tasks, cause you to feel more anxious and stressed. Some common causes of stress include:
- Work or financial difficulties
- Family or relationship problems
- Major life changes such as moving, getting married, or having a baby
- Illness or injury
- Social media and technology overload
Depending on the individual, the source of stress can be different. You may have stressful work that takes up most of your time, or you’re having a hard time looking for a job for a long time. Children may also experience stress when facing high expectations, difficult social situations, or having difficulty moving to a new place.
How to Manage Stress
Once you identify the cause of your stress, several strategies can help you manage it. Remember that stress is part of life. Eliminating this is unrealistic, so it’s important to learn how to take steps to manage and reduce its effects. Here are some tips that may help.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety. These activities allow you to take a break from the stressors in your life and focus on yourself. You can take the time to sign up for a yoga or meditation class, or you can search online for guided meditations and breathing exercises. You can also do this in your free time at the office by doing breathing exercises or taking a few minutes to close your eyes and breath.
If your stress is causing serious problems, it may be time to seek professional help. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you reframe negative thought patterns into more beneficial ones to modify your behavior. You can undergo CBT if you suffer from an eating disorder. If you have a busy schedule and prefer to adhere to the therapist’s guidance while living at home, you can choose outpatient treatment for binge eating disorder. This treatment offers CBT that combines well with medication and dietary advice. Since this is an outpatient treatment, you must make sure that you maintain your appointments and follow the therapist’s advice.
Physical activity releases endorphins that help reduce stress. Whether it’s an intense workout, yoga/pilates, or just going for a walk—make sure you get at least 30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times weekly. Exercise can help clear your mind and relieve tension in the body, giving you more energy and a better outlook. Regular exercise goes well with a healthy diet, giving you a double dose of stress-fighting power.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is essential for good physical and mental health. When we’re tired, our bodies and minds cannot cope with stressors easily. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night to ensure your body and mind are well rested. If you have a busy lifestyle, it can be helpful to plan when you’ll wind down and head to bed.
Stress is a part of life but it doesn’t have to take over. Use these tips to help manage your stress levels and stay in control. With the right strategies, you can reduce and manage stress more effectively and lead healthier lives.