Stress can affect your body in some ways. Stress can be defined as a physical and mental response to situations we find challenging. Our physical stress response is rooted in our biological makeup. It harkens back to our caveman days.
Stress can manifest
- Upset stomach
- Muscle aches and pains
- Trouble sleeping/insomnia
People who tend to worry a lot, even if they have no clear cause for worry such as money issues, will often have some of the above-mentioned symptoms
The stress response makes us feel as if we are under attack. This triggers a “fight or flight” series of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. These get the body ready to either attack or run.
These days, we are not battling against saber-toothed tigers, but unfortunately, our body reacts as if we are every time we get stressed. All sorts of chemical changes come into play. For example, blood gets diverted to your muscles, and various bodily functions such as digestion shut down to make as much energy available as possible for the burst of action that is about to happen – to run or fight.
Our heart pounds faster, and we breathe more rapidly and shallowly. This increases our oxygen intake and flow. This hyper-focuses our attention, so the only thing we can think of is the “threat” so we can try to deal with it.
The Impact of Stress on the Body
Stress triggering these reactions several times a day can lead to extreme tiredness, difficulty in focusing on our regular daily chores, and tension throughout our body. This, in turn, can lead to pain, including a headache, migraine, jaw pain, and back pain. You can soon start to feel aching, stiffness, tension and pinched nerves. Some people clench their jaw when stressed, and other find they grind their teeth, particularly in their sleep, which can harm the teeth and enamel.
Stress also plays havoc with our digestion, leading to upset stomach, nausea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, and sometimes constipation. This can cause poor health over time and also damage the bowel, leading to it not being able to work properly.
The immune system can be impacted by stress because it leaves you feeling run down and therefore less able to ward off colds and flu. Stress tends to interfere with healthy, restful sleep too. Some have trouble with falling asleep, others with staying asleep.
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The average person needs eight hours of high-quality sleep per night. Even missing an hour can lead to sleep deprivation, which is a significant cause of accidents on the road and at work. Just think how disrupted your life gets when we change the clocks back and forth for daylight saving time, and you will have a good idea of the negative effects of lost sleep each night upon the quality of your life.
Read more =>How To Cure Insomnia Without Medication
One of the most critical changes in the body is an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure is linked to heart attack and stroke.
Read more =>What causes high blood pressure?
Stress also causes our blood sugar levels to rise. This triggers insulin production to try to bring it back down to normal levels. If this happens too often, then over time you can develop insulin resistance, in which the body isn’t able to respond to the insulin adequately. This can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
Stress also causes us to make unhealthy food choices. We often consume fast food or high carbohydrate foods, which can also affect blood sugar and insulin levels and lead to Type 2 diabetes, as well as obesity and poor nutrition.
Read more => Type 2 Diabetes
Stress can also change your sex drive. It can be hard to get into the mood when you are always so tense, and lack of libido can lead to problems in your romantic relationships, and even more stress.
Ways to Cope with Stress and Anxiety
There are many ways to practice stress management. A stress diary can help you keep track of what works best for you. Here are a few suggestions:
Exercise is a great stress buster. Aerobics can be a fun workout. Swimming enhances mood, and if the water in the pool is warm, it can be very relaxing. Water aerobics is a good workout that is low impact and therefore suitable for all ages.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years for physical and mental fitness. It uses your body weight to tone and trim. It is considered anaerobic exercise, or strength training, but flow yoga and Kundalini yoga will also give you an excellent aerobic workout. Bikram, or hot yoga, will as well, but it is very demanding and not suitable for heart patients or anyone with underlying health issues.
There are also several relaxation techniques that can help.
This calms body and mind and releases toxins. It can be done anywhere, at any time.
To meditate means to think. A lot of people start with a simple deep breathing meditation, observing the breath and trying not to get distracted. There are also guided meditations and meditations about various topics. Meditation can be done with visualization.
Visualization refers to forming a picture in your mind which calms you. Some people call it “Going to your happy place,” a place that you can picture any time you need to de-stress. Visualization can also be used as part of guided meditation.
Quality Time with Friends and Family
This can relax you if the relationships are good ones. Enjoy fun activities, talk, exercise together, visit a peaceful natural setting, listen to music, watch a comedy, and so on.
Make Time for Yourself
Enjoy a warm bath, spend time doing a hobby you love, read a good book, and pace yourself. Don’t be a workaholic. Get a massage, head to a spa, and try other things that you love that help you feel rested and rejuvenated.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
There are some CAMs that might be able to help with stress and IBS. Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced for more than 5,000 years. It emphasizes holistic health of body, mind, and spirit. It also focuses on prevention by keeping things in balance.
Ayurveda posits that there are three different types of metabolisms – Vata, pitta, and Kapha, with one usually dominant in each person. They recommend different diets for each type of metabolism and to support the diet with various herbs and massage.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), you can try acupuncture or acupressure to move energy around the body to promote health and healing.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy, (CBT), also known as talk therapy, has been shown to work just as efficiently as antidepressants, but with no dangerous side effects.
Other therapies to try include:
- Biofeedback – a way of monitoring vital functions in your body such as blood pressure, and trying to lower it through focus and concentration
- Traditional psychotherapy
These can help with mood issues, but they will not do too much to relieve diarrhea or constipation. You can also try a self-help group for people with irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive disorders. You can learn a lot from people who have had the condition for some time. Support is important when you have any medical condition, and getting it from people who know what you are going through could be of great benefit.
Visit Your Doctor
If you try these methods and still struggle to relieve your anxiety, discuss your stress diary with your doctor. They might also have suggestions for helping with your gastric symptoms.
Being stressed all the time can certainly take its toll on your health. IBS has been linked to stress, and those with IBS have noted that if they bring their stress level under control, they usually get relief from their symptoms.
Exercise, diet, smarter lifestyle measures, stress relief techniques and relaxation methods can all help you live better, with a higher quality of life, Keep a stress diary, plan healthy menus to help deal with whichever digestive symptoms you have, and share your findings with a doctor who is proactive about treating stress naturally and holistically.