How Chronic Stress Can Be Harmful To Health?
Stress is a warning sign which produces fight or flight response in the body. It is the body's natural defense against predators and dangers. The body produces chemicals called cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline which further increases the heart rate leading to sweating and increased alertness. Stress can have positive and negative effects on the body. Positive or Good stress is a burst of energy that can motivate a person to attain his goals. It can boost memory and help one to accomplish tasks effectively. Moderate stress can fortify the immune system and improve the functioning of the heart and protect the body from infections.
Some people experience negative stress which gets accumulated over time as the person is unable to find a solution to escape from the cause of stress and it becomes chronic stress. Unhappy married life, financial problems, a tragedy or traumatic experience in early life may lead to chronic stress. Ones decreased productivity at work, on off headaches, forgetfulness, insomnia are some of the effects of chronic stress. Chronic stress leads to many health problems some of which can be irreversible damage to the body, if not taken care of in time. Problems like high blood pressure, heart diseases, obesity and diabetes are connected to stress. Early aging and long-term disability are also related to stress. Children exposed to chronic stress are at risk of developing the mental illness if they are genetically predisposed.
Symptoms of Stress
Some of the most common symptoms that one experiences while in stress are listed below:
- Lack of concentration may lead to drug abuse.
- Feeling tired, decreased energy, sweating, rapid heartbeat, body aches, chest pains, headaches, muscle spasms or cramps, getting sick more often, auto immune disease flare-ups
- Digestive problems like diarrhea, constipation, upset stomach, heart burn or acid reflux, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, change in appetite, eating more or eating very less often leading to gain or loss of weight.
- Even mild levels of stress can impair one's ability to control emotions. The person experiencing stress goes through frequent mood swings, restlessness, feels more anxious and irritable most of the time.
- Insomnia, not able to fall asleep or staying awake all night.
Harmful Effects of Chronic Stress
Persistent negative stress leads to physical illness, mental, emotional and social problems in life. Some of the most visible effects of stress on health are listed below:
- Weight Gain: When a person finds himself in a stressful situation, he/she winds up eating more than needed. This overeating leads to weight gain over time.
- Acne: Eventhe minimum amount of stress can activate the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis leading to hormonal imbalance in the body. This leads to breakouts of acne. A person when in stress, tends to touch their face more often, leading to the spread of bacteria which further contributes tothe development of acne.
- Gum and Teeth problems: People often tend to grind their teeth when in stress. In case of chronic stress, it becomes a habit and one does it unconsciously leading to wearing the teeth and damaging the jaw. It can also lead to gum diseases.
- Makes one look older: Premature aging is one of the adverse effects of stress. The person gets wrinkles, weak muscles, poor eyesight, early graying of hair due to being in stress. Stress shortens the telomere at the end of chromosomes so that new cells cannot grow quickly.
- Impotence: Change in sex drive leading to social withdrawal isa very common effect of stress. Sex is a way to relieve stress but chronic stress changes testosterone levels in men which can interfere in sperm production and leads to performance anxiety. There is erectile dysfunction causing impotence and loss of libido in people who suffer from chronic stress. Chronic stress also increases the risk of infection for male reproductive organs like prostate and testes.
- Menstrual problems in females: Chronic stress is the main cause of irregular; heavy and more painful periods experienced by females. This also leads to infertility issues in females.
- Adverse Effect on Immunity: Emotional stress weakens the immune system significantly and leads to depression and fatigue. People undergoing chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like flu, common cold and other infections. Stress also increases the recovery time from an illness or injury as it weakens the immune system and slows down the body's response to the invaders. Stress is also linked to thedevelopment of upper respiratory infections.
- Adverse effects on Muscular system: Chronic stress do not let the muscles to relax on its own. Tight muscles lead to back pains, shoulder pains and stiffness inthe body. A person is not able to exercise due to body aches and becomes dependent on pain relief medicines.
- Adverse effects on Heart (cardio vascular system) and Respiratory system: When the brain perceives stress, it releases chemicals like epinephrine, which can be harmful to the heart as it can change the arteries and cell regeneration. The heart pumps faster in stress. Stress hormone causes the blood vessels to constrict and divert more oxygen to the muscles but this in turn raises blood pressure which puts a person at risk of stroke or heart attack. When in stress, a person breathes faster to quickly distribute oxygen rich blood to the body. Stress actually makes it harder to breathe if one has problems like asthma or emphysema already.
- Increase risk of Type 2 diabetes: When in stress, the liver produces extra blood sugar which the body is not able to keep up with, thus increasing the chances of type 2 diabetes.
- High levels of stress during pregnancy lead to developmental issues inside the womb.
- Chronic stress is linked to illness like cancer, liver disease (cirrhosis of liver), fatal accidents and suicides.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. It can take a toll on many aspects of health. One cannot prevent stress but can manage it by changing our response to situations. Practicing Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, getting massages, listening to music, going for long walks, taking out time for oneself, getting the support you need is some of the ways to overcome negative stress.
Herbal Remedies for Stress
Stress Support of Planet Ayurveda are packed with wonderful ingredients such as Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Tagar (Valeriana wallichii) and Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri).
1-2 capsules twice on a daily basis, with plain, water after meals.
Diet and Lifestyle
- Stay away from things which give you negative thinking.
- Listen to music or that which is pleasant to mind.
- Hang out with friends or family people to have fun. Avoid be isolated.
- One can have habit of writing dairies when is all alone.
- Prefer oats and high fiber rich diet.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Opt for fresh homemade food rather than junk or packed foods.
- Practice yoga and meditation.