What are the effects of stress on the body?

What are the effects of stress on the body

Stress, what’s that? Have you ever rocked back and forth or shake your leg while awaiting your appraisal? Have you ever constantly checked that tickling wrist watch on your hand when you are stuck in traffic and supposed to reach your destination 10 minutes ago? Have you ever experienced disturbed sleep due to the examination scheduled next day? Do you experience low tolerance or get into frequent arguments over petty issues when your loved one is diagnosed with serious medical illness?

Here is your gynaecologist congratulating you for being pregnant, but wait a minute- are you experiencing butterflies in your stomach? Well, these are normal reactions towards our day to day pressures we all experience and this is what I will call- a ‘STRESS’. National Institute of Mental Health defines stress as “the brain’s response to any demand and that Stress can be triggered by a number of events, positive, negative, real and perceived.”

Most of us think of stress in negative light but that’s not true. A stress that increases our motivational drive to achieve anything or helps us to give our best shot is a positive stress termed EUSTRESS. Whereas distress is unhealthy, hampers our daily functioning and is most commonly associated with “STRESS”.

Also read: Is Digital Recluse the Best Practice for Mindfulness?

Though stress is not categorized under any disorder, chronic stress can lead to various psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, etc as well as many medical conditions like hypertension, cardiovascular disease etc.

Here are some of the effects of stress on body:

  • Body aches: when under stress, our body muscles can become tense. With continuous stress, the body doesn’t seem to relax leading to complaints of headaches, backache etc.
  • Sleep disturbances: When under stress, there is constant over thinking and rumination of issues leading to sleep disturbances. Most common complaints of these include lack of sleep, broken sleep, nightmares, difficulty falling asleep easily or early morning awakening. These can further worsen the health leading to mood swing as well as headaches.
  • Eating habits: when under stress, we go through an emotional turmoil taking us through the range of emotions like anxiety, depression, anger, irritation, guilt etc. Many a time people resort to food as a comfort factor. This is what I call emotional eating. While under stress, many a time people struggle to differentiate between physical and emotional hunger and give into their cravings of eating sweets or junk and fried food. Also, some people get aversive or avoid eating food when under stress. Whether it's aversive or emotional eating, the digestive system gets affected.
  • Menstrual cycle: under chronic stress, menstrual cycle can get affected amongst women making the periods arrive early, or periods can get irregular, with the heavy flow.
  • Loss of Libido: libido or as most commonly known as sex drive gets affected with exposure to chronic stress. This can further put a strain on relationships leading to conflicts and emotional dysregulation.
  • Medical conditions: chronic stress can exacerbate current ongoing medical conditions and with sleep and eating habits gone for toss, the chances of heart attack, diabetes, hypertension, stroke and convulsion increases.
  • Addictions: I have heard people reported an increase in number of cigarettes they smoke and the alcohol consumption intake when under stress. Also, finding relief in drugs is not uncommon. All these can increase the risk of addictions as well as medical and psychological issues.
  • Other effects include- been forgetful, attention issues, confusion leading to difficulty in decision making, lack of motivation to work as well as withdrawal.

Even though Stress is common, seen often, its important to manage and seek help to cope with the stress at the right time. Some of the ways to deal with stress are:

  • Seek professional help from a psychologist to deal with effects of stress as well as learn healthy coping ways.
  • Mindfully bring about a change in lifestyle and habits by involving into healthy eating- know when you are really hungry and when under stress, following sleep hygiene, and avoid use of any substance.
  • Connect with friends and family for support by sharing about stress.
  • Use a time matrix- know what is important and urgent and keep asking self- Am I taking too many projects? This will prevent one from taking too much than required.
  • Focus on solution rather than problem- ask self: what can be done to resolve than sulking about the issues, what is accomplished so far and what can be the next step from here?
  • Exercise and engage into hobbies by taking breaks to unwind as required.

Remember, stress is the trash of modern life, we all generate it, but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life- by Danzae Pace.

Facing stress related issues? Get in touch with us https://mpowerminds.com/seekhelp

Ajeeta Mulye
Psychologist & Outreach associate Mpower – The Foundation
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