how stress affects health

What is Stress?

Stress can be defined as the body’s response to external pressures arising from a situation or life event. Distress is the most well-known type of stress and refers to anxiety caused by a negative experience. The other form of stress is eustress – this refers to stress which benefits a person in that it gives them the mindset they need to survive and thrive in high-pressure situations.

How The Stress Response Affects You

When we undergo a stressful experience our brains trigger “the stress response”. This begins with the emission of a distress signal which brings about the release of adrenaline throughout the body. A survival mechanism is known as the “fight or flight response” is then initiated to reduce stress. In order to help you to quickly react to life-threatening situations, this response causes a number of physiological changes. For example, extra oxygen is sent to the brain to boost sensory alertness and extra blood sugar and fats are sent into the bloodstream to energize all body parts. Following this, the brain then floods the body with cortisol (aka the “stress hormone”) which can briefly change or halt certain bodily functions which it deems to get in the way of survival.

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How Stress Affects the Body

There is still a lot about stress that we still don’t know. However, one thing is clear is that everyone has their own unique response to stress. There is no one way to manage stress. For some, stress may manifest itself in insomnia, whereas for others it could cause a stomach-ache or heartburn. One theory is that many of these ailments are brought on by the stress response which shifts attention away from normal bodily functions associated with the immune, digestive, sleep, and reproductive systems. The infographic below offers a more comprehensive list of the ways in which stress can affect the body.

The Danger of Chronic Stress

Studies reveal that chronic stress – or, sustained stress over a long time can take a major toll on our health. This is because of the repeated activation of the fight or flight response which puts a huge amount of pressure on the body. Research has connected chronic stress with a wide range of serious health issues from depression to gastrointestinal disorders.  

5 Stress Management Tips

Stress is an unavoidable part of everyday life, so it’s essential to learn effective coping techniques. Not only will this enhance your overall health, but it will also prevent you from turning to destructive behaviors such as alcohol abuse or overeating. Some healthy stress management techniques include:

  1. Breathing exercises
  2. Mindful meditation
  3. Regular exercise
  4. Sleeping enough
  5. Socializing with friends
The Negative Health Impact of Stress (Infographic)

Learn More If you are curious about stress and would like to learn more, then you should peruse the below infographic which comes from Study Medicine Europe. This detailed guide covers some interesting statistics about stress and provides an easy-to-understand overview of the many ways in which stress can affect our health.

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