Stress is more than just feeling a little pressure around work or school deadlines. The signs of stress are both physical and mental, and its effects contribute to everything from the common cold, to acne breakouts and rosacea flare-ups, and the development of serious autoimmune disorders and medical conditions.To understand stress and the complications that can arise from it, it’s important to first realize that it in itself is a disease that affects a wide range of functions. Therefore, it can be difficult to pinpoint the problem and solve it quickly.
Many experience physical signs of stress.
It’s common for people who are having an anxiety attack to report feeling temperature changes, shaking, slurred speech, and changes in vision. Others report sudden attacks of deep weariness that mimic the symptoms of narcolepsy, where they feel that they must go to sleep immediately. Many people experience emotional signs of stress as a trigger to the flight-or-fight reflex, and have bursts of manic energy that can lead to erratic behavior or lashing out at people close to them.This may seem like a confusing list of symptoms, but once you realize how intrusive stress is to the physical body it all starts to make sense. The human body and mind are wired together so that the brain interprets a situation and then sends signals to the body to help it react appropriately.
Under our current living conditions stress is not always a temporary situation. Relationships, work, school, and family can all contribute to ongoing stress. Keeping up with the daily news report is very stressful for many people during times like these, as are financial constraints, or the factors that go into attempting to achieve work and life balance.
Let’s take a closer look at how the reactions of the body to stress can manifest themselves.
When the mind perceives a situation as troublesome or threatening, it signals the body to release adrenaline and cortisol. These elevated levels trigger the fight-or-flight reflex, causing the body to dump glucose into the bloodstream, alter the digestive process and raise blood pressure. This can manifest as physical signs of stress in many people as sweating, stammering, hyperventilating, and serious stomach upset. Acutely, some people also experience skin reactions to this process such as hives or rashes.
The symptoms usually subside once the stressor is removed, but if the situation goes on for an extended period, the raised levels of cortisol start to create other issues in the body. Thickened blood vessel walls, ongoing digestive problems, chronic skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, acne, melasma, and psoriasis; and autoimmune disorders can all be responses to ongoing and unrelieved stress.
While the nervous system is ramping up adrenaline and cortisol, the other systems of the body are responding as well. Muscles will tense up so that they are ready to react quickly. The respiratory system prompts the lungs to breathe more rapidly. Blood vessels dilate to send more blood and oxygen to the large muscles, and the heart begins to beat harder and faster. The stomach and digestive process undergo changes that either slow digestion down or speed it up. All these bodily reactions come with their own side effects.
Tense muscles can cause bodily aches and pains long after the episode is over, and ongoing tension can create long lasting back or joint pain and headaches. Changes in breathing patterns often lead to lightheadedness, and even panic attacks; and cause many people to experience extreme exhaustion after the immediate stress has passed.
Changes in the cardiovascular system that are repeated often are a known factor in heart disease. Stress can cause digestive disorders such as dysbiosis and damage to the mucosal barrier, constipation, nausea and vomiting, and may affect the body’s ability to effectively absorb nutrients.
Our skin often inherits many of the downsides of stress, as it’s the most exposed and extremely sensitive part of our bodies. Acne, stress rashes and other skin conditions may appear in moments of high stress. Unfortunately, these flare ups may be difficult to track directly back to stress because of their varying factors.
To manage the side effects of stress, it is important to remember that stress is a system-wide disorder. Anything that causes mental and emotional stress will also have physical side effects. Treating the physical symptoms of stress will have a positive effect on mental stress, and relieving stress mentally will have a positive effect on the physical side effects. It is important to treat both simultaneously.
It’s important to seek stress-management support.
After consulting with your healthcare practitioner about medical issues that might be involved, be sure to pay close attention to diet and exercise. Eating a lot of fresh foods can boost antioxidant levels, which may have reduced inflammation caused by stress and will boost the immune system. Daily exercise is known to have a strong positive influence on stress levels. If you do have physical stress symptoms such as rashes, stomach upset or headaches, take over the counter medication when appropriate to give relief to the symptoms.
Remember that anything you do to reduce physical stress will have a positive effect on your mental state as well. Above all, be kind to yourself when you are experiencing ongoing stress in life. Following sensible guidelines will go a long way towards helping you get through a stressful period in your life.
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*This post is sponsored by Zwivel.com.