We all battle stress in our everyday life. It is normal and unavoidable. In fact, stress is the body’s way of getting you ready to combat a threatening situation. It is essential in helping you adapt to dangerous situations and protecting yourself.
As with many things in life, the problem with stress lies in balancing or managing it. There’s no way around stress. We all have to deal with it at some level. The question is do we allow ourselves to succumb to its ill-effects or do we deal with what may be its underlying cause?
Stress is capable of impacting almost every area of our life. It can wreak havoc on our emotions, behaviours, and thinking ability. But its effects on the body’s physical health are only now starting to be discussed.
When you stress your body releases a hormone called Cortisol as part of its fight-or-flight mechanism. Cortisol gives your body a natural energy boost and by nature shifts your body’s focus to essential functions that will help you in your emergency.
In doing this, it temporarily disables nonessential functions such as the immune, digestive, and reproductive system function, and brain function that deals with mood adjustment, motivation, and fear.
During extended periods of chronic stress, your body is producing cortisol when in fact there is no fight-or-flight situation to deal with. Cortisol thus builds up and poses serious health risks.
The overexposure to stress hormones, such as cortisol, can disrupt the healthy functioning of your body's processes. In the short-term, it can lead to forgetfulness, poor judgment, an inability to focus, and overly pessimistic thoughts. It can leave you feeling easily agitated or irritable, overwhelmed or like you are losing control. As a result, you may distance yourself from people, or feel depressed.
In the physical form, stress can cause headaches, low energy levels, changes in appetite or an upset stomach, body aches, chest pain, insomnia, a low libido, and nervousness.
To cope with the above, individuals often resort to alcohol, drugs, and smoking, or can exhibit nervous or avoidant behaviour such as nail biting, pacing, and procrastination.
In the long term, stress is even more dangerous as it can lead to and worsen several serious ailments.
Stress is a part of life. But, it can be managed. It is crucial to keep a control on stress and its symptoms. Exercising and practising yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises, listening to calming music, getting good sleep, cuddling a pet, and cutting back on obligations for some relax time are all known to help with stress management.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to a family member or a friend. Consult a doctor if you still feel helpless. After all, keeping tabs on your stress can save your life.