Stress can have a huge knock-on effect on the body. Having a lot on your shoulders, and feeling under a lot of pressure for long periods of time can make your whole body fall out of its usual cycle, and you might find it a lot harder to look after yourself than ever before. And do we ever really consider the extent of the damage that can occur? Not really!
However, we can all feel stress changing our minds and bodies, so during these moments we take to things like yoga or kicking back and watching a bit of TV to help. But we still don’t put the proper focus on our stress, meaning our health can worsen in the long term. So it’s time to dig in a little more; here are some of the biggest ways stress can change your body, even without you knowing about it.
A Less Effective Immune System
Are you stressed right now? If you can answer yes to that question, are you feeling more run down than usual? Maybe you’ve been sneezing more than you should be, or maybe you’ve been having bad nights? Well, it’s all connected! Stress does a number on the immune system when you let it build up, and your body is nowhere near as effective at fighting off infections as it should be.
Why does this happen? Because when you’re stressed, your body releases a lot more of the hormone ‘cortisol’, which acts as a suppressant for many other systems in the body. One of the unfortunate victims here is the immune system, and during this time, you’re going to be much more likely to pick up coughs and colds from those around you. In the long term, an overproduction of cortisol can even lead to chronic illness, or make any chronic conditions you live with much worse.
Did you know there’s as many nerves in your gut as there is in your brain? In fact there’s over 100 million nerve endings down there, meaning it can work entirely independently to digest what you put into your body. As a result, the gut is often known as ‘the second brain’, and for good reason!
Think about it – when you’ve been upset in the past, or work stress has gotten you down, have you felt bloated and uncomfortable down there? Maybe you’ve needed to use the toilet more often than usual? It’s all because of the stress; your gut produces the most serotonin in your body, which is one of the ‘happy chemicals’, and that’s why we always have a ‘gut feeling’ whenever we need to make a hard decision. A lot of thinking goes on down there without you knowing it!
Everybody tends to experience bowel trouble when they’re stressed out, and it’s the most surefire sign that you need to do something to relax. Otherwise you may end up living with long term disorders such as IBS, which certainly wouldn’t help you to feel healthy in the long run.
Your Heart Has to Work Harder
Stress can make your heart go a million miles a minute – or at least it seems like it can! In truth, your heart can be doing just fine when you’re a little bit stressed every now and then, but in the long term, you’re giving this muscle a workout it doesn’t need. Stress can make the heart work faster and harder, as well as subject it to hormones that make its job a lot more difficult in the long run too.
And seeing as stress is one of the main leading factors for heart disease, it might be a good idea to think about doing some breathing exercises right about now! After all, when your heart has to work harder, it causes more pressure to build up in your arteries, leading to hypertension as the offset.
This can be dangerous when it’s left untreated, especially if you weren’t even aware that your blood pressure was high in the first place. You may find it beneficial to invest in an at-home heart monitor for those days when you just can’t catch a break.
It’s Easier to Pick Up Bad Habits
Stress can make us ignore what we really need. It can make us head to bed much later than we should, and stay up much later than is healthy for us, especially if we’ve got an early shift the next day! It can make us skip meals or simply snack the whole day away, and the more stressed we feel, the more junk food we tend to load up our shopping carts with. Comfort eating is a vice a lot of us turn to in times of trouble.
And all of these things can be considered bad habits. They’re not something you want to commit to in the long term, but every so often you head back to them. When something is weighing on your shoulders, they’re a good way to block out the worry, and sometimes falling into bad habits like these can lead us to seeking out the help of a website like https://www.sunshinebehavioralhealth.com/colorado/colorado-springs/ as well. And all because there’s a small part of our life overshadowing the rest.
Which is why it’s a keen idea to kick these habits to the curve as soon as you notice them. Yes, stress can make us act out in uncertain ways, but knowing that this moment will pass, and there are many ways you can handle the weight on your shoulders, is a good way to set yourself up for success in the future.
You May Find Yourself Growing Out of Your Wardrobe
Stress can lead to weight gain – yes, having a bad day at work could have a knock on effect for your body image! Once again that pesky stress hormone is to blame; it can prevent you from shedding the calories you eat day by day, especially if you’re turning to comfort food and various takeaways to get through right now.
Which means the next time you want to break out the little black number you love, you might find it a bit tighter than it’s ever been before. You may not feel as comfortable or as confident in it, and that can make you even more stressed, and so the cycle repeats itself. It really does go round and round, but stopping it in the middle and saying, ‘I know what’s happening here!’ is a great way to get yourself back on track.
It’s Much Harder to Remember Things
And finally, stress can cause us to be forgetful. We’ve got a lot of other things on our minds, and that means there’s not much room for the things we should be holding onto, such as a colleague’s birthday or needing to pick up pet food from the shop. We’re so busy dwelling on unhelpful things that we lose touch in the moment, and that can prevent us from fulfilling our responsibilities.
Which is why it’s often useful to make lists when you’re in a stressed moment. Write down everything you need to remember to make this time easier for you, and to stop you from feeling more stressed when you realize you’ve forgotten something!
Stress can do some awful things to our bodies; make sure you’re aware of the effects above – knowledge is half the battle, and can prevent stress from becoming too much in the long run.