Stress and Your Body
Stress is your body’s response to any stressor or demand. Stressors can be as simple as traffic, or a dog barking at your when you’re on a walk, or as complicated as relationships or finances. When you undergo a stressful situation or are confronted with a stressor, your body responds by releasing hormones. The hormones released when your body sends the “stress alert” include adrenaline and cortisol. When these kick in you begin to feel your body’s stress signs.
Adrenaline raises your heart rate, elevating your blood pressure and boosting energy. Cortisol increases sugars in the bloodstream. Cortisol also stops functions that are not essential in a “fight or flight” situation like the immune system, the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes.
When the things causing you stress go away, these hormones decrease, your system returns to normal and your stress signs and symptoms diminish. However, when the things that cause you stress are daily events or situations, it can affect your health in many ways. It’s very important to know how to identify stress and your body responses to it. There can be serious consequences when your body continues to be stressed over a long period of time. When your “fight or flight” alarm is always on and these hormones shut down many processes in your body, you are at an increased risk of:
- Digestive issues
- Heart Disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory impairment
While your body is responding to this stressful event, you may be able to identify some physical stress signs and symptoms in order to take steps to relax and allow your body to begin its natural processes again. Some of the stress symptoms and signs you may notice are:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, nausea, constipation or diarrhea
- Inability to sleep
- Tense muscles
Stress doesn’t only cause physical symptoms. There are also some psychological stress symptoms that you may be able to identify. If you have any of the following symptoms, it may be an indicator of something more serious than just daily stress. If you are experiencing these psychological stress symptoms, you may want to discuss them with your health care provider. These symptoms include:
- Difficulty managing anger or your temper
- Obsessive or compulsive behaviors
- Chronic fatigue or lack of energy
- Memory problems
- Not wanting to do the things you used to love to do
- Lack of sexual desire
- Mood swings
Stress is something that we all feel at different times in our lives. By knowing what the signs and symptoms of stress are in your body, we can recognize them and begin to take steps to control or decrease stress. When we are able to cope with our stress in healthy ways, we can prevent long term stress-related effects on our body and mind.