Stress might be having adverse effects on your health without you realising it. Headaches, fatigue and rapid heartbeat or decreased focus at work are all immediate or short term symptoms of stress and may be happening because of it.
A major reason for these short term symptoms is the increased presence of cortisol in your body. It is the stress hormone and is released when your brain senses tension. It constricts the blood vessels, reduces serotonin (a feel good hormone) and affects your digestive system.
Stress has a range of physical and emotional symptoms that appear in the short term. If unchecked, will lead to more serious and longer term implications.
Impact of stress on your health
Heart diseases. Stress is an extremely powerful feeling. When stressed, there’s a sharp increase of adrenaline produced by your body. It’s the flight and fight hormone which is produced when you are in a high pressure situation. When your stress levels are unchecked and stay high for too long, the high amount of adrenaline in your body can cause heart attacks and other heart related problems.
Depression. If you suffer from prolonged stress, it can have a negative impact on your mental health. It will wear you down and the part of your brain that regulates emotions will be under severe pressure because of it. This can lead to depression and other mental health problems.
Migraines. The tension you face due to being under pressure can cause headaches and other body aches, as muscles tighten up. Moreover, cortisol leads to the constriction of blood vessels. This leads to more headaches. If left unchecked, tension headaches become powerful and frequent with a chance of migraines as well.
Weakened immune system. The high amounts of cortisol produced can have a direct impact on your immune system. High levels of cortisol inhibits your body’s natural response to attacks from bacteria and viruses. Moreover, it directly impacts the number of white blood cells your body produces and hampers your natural inflammation response. Hence, it’s important to regulate and manage stress.
Sex-related issues. When you are stressed, your blood vessels constrict and proper blood flow is restricted. Hence, it is a common sign for your libido to decrease libido (sex drive) when stressed. In men, it can even cause erectile dysfunction as your brain is too busy managing stress. In women, it can lead to lesser frequency of orgasms as you may be unable to focus and relax.
Irregular menstrual cycles. High levels of stress cause a hormonal imbalance, frequent headaches and impact your physical well-being. In women, this manifests through irregular menstrual cycles and increased pain during periods. If your menstrual cycle has been irregular for a while, it would be wise to check your stress levels.
High blood pressure. Your blood vessels tighten up due to increased production of cortisol. When we are unable to reduce and manage stress, it leads to abnormally high levels of cortisol, which cause blood pressure issues. In order to ensure your blood pressure stays regulated, especially if you have a medical history for it, it’s key to manage and control it.
Digestive issues. Stress and cortisol can have a negative impact on your stomach and digestive system. It causes a reduced blood flow and oxygen supply to the stomach, muscle fatigue and an imbalance in the gut. These can have further negative consequences such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowel disease (IBD), peptic ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These are all highly dangerous to your digestive system and require thorough regulation. In case you’re facing some mild digestive issues right now, reflect on your stress levels and try to stabilise it.
Stress is dangerous when left unchecked. It’s important to arm yourself with stress management skills to overcome stress. Moreover, you should be able to destress yourself after a long day and try to be in a balanced state at all times.
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