Stress is part of everyone’s life today. It is how the body responds to a situation that requires a reaction or adjustment. The body has a natural mechanism to react to stress, and the changes required in response to stress could be physical, emotional or mental.
Stress is not always bad – it keeps a person alert and avoids danger. However, continued stressful conditions can take a toll on a person’s well being.
How stress affects health
Each person has a different way of dealing with stressful conditions, and everybody has a different scale of reaction to a particular stressful event. What may feel normal for one person may completely stress out another, but beyond a point, stress overload affects everyone. Here’s how:
- Higher anxiety levels – One of the first responses to stress is anxiety and a state of panic. In severe cases, stress can cause panic attacks, which can be recurrent in response to a recurring stressful event.
- Lowered immunity – Though there is no direct evidence to prove this theory, stress is believed to weaken the ability of a person to fight infection.
- Depression – Chronic stress can lead to depression where the person loses interest and hope of finding a solution to the problem. Rather, s/he loses control of the situation at hand and lets negative emotions take a toll on his/her mental and emotional wellbeing. Severe depression can lead to substance abuse and suicidal tendencies.
- Substance abuse (drug, alcohol, smoking) – In a state of stress, a person subconsciously gravitates towards drugs, alcohol, and smoking or even binge eating to find temporary relief from the problem, only to get addicted to it. This leads to a host of disorders.
- Disrupting bowel function – Many people experience irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), believed to be caused by brain’s nerves’ interaction with brain chemicals or a lowered immune system.
- Increased risk or worsening of diseases – Continued negative stress leads to a state of distress. Distress can manifest itself in a variety of physical symptoms like headaches, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation and chest pain. Stress and anxiety may also increase the risk of certain diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Knowing when stress becomes unmanageable
It is important to manage stress in time before it makes the body susceptible to a host of physical, emotional and mental ailments.
The warning signs of stress begin to show when a person finds himself/herself:
- Incapable of coping with the situation and feels lost all the time.
- Battling physical symptoms like body aches, headache, fatigue, interrupted sleep, loss of appetite and concentration, etc.
- Lack of interest in maintaining relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
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“Stress management,” MayoClinic.com, Mayo clinic Staff, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/basics/stress-basics/hlv-20049495
“Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior,” MayoClinic.com, Mayo clinic Staff, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987
“Stress Symptoms,” WebMD.com, http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body
“The Effects of Stress on Your Body,” WebMD.com, http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/effects-of-stress-on-your-body