Stress is one of the most obvious markers of internal unrest. Its effects manifest physically and are hard to ignore. Those of you who have dealt with panic attacks know how life-threatening stress can feel. And while a stressful day at the office won't likely send you to the hospital, ongoing stress will slowly destroy you. Not to be glum — but to be glum — the effects of stress on the body can be life-threatening. The respiratory and cardiovascular effects can be immediately damning, and the neurological, psychological, digestive, and superficial effects can be a slow death.
Stress is a stubborn beast. It's strong, it employs lots of back up hormones and there's no non-medicinal cure for it. And even though Nicole Kidman looked banging in Stepford Wives, no one wants to live like that, drugged up and muted. Stress is a natural and healthy part of life. It's the body's defense. All of its effects are just evidence of its army preparing for battle, your body doing its thang. But is it possible to calm the troops? Yes, stress is manageable. There are various valuable ways to combat stress such as exercise, healthy eating and sleeping habits, psychotherapy and mediation. Once you know how to calm the beast, you'll be better prepared for the next run-in. And, the newfound understanding of it, will make its presence less intimidating and thus lessen its effects.
For those of you who like to Google Image diseases and WebMD diagnoses, here are some crappy things that happen to your body when you're under stress, in as much gory detail as possible.
Your Cravings Kick In Like Nobody's Business
Cortisol, the body's stress hormone has been linked to cravings for sugar and fat. That same hormone, in large quantities, can be traced to belly fat and the enlargement of fat cells in the body. Stress can also raise the body's glucose levels, triggering and exacerbating diabetes in susceptible patients. If you're craving sugary or fatty foods when you're stressed, that's your cortisol at work.
Your Heart And Lungs Prepare For A Nonexistent Battle
Stress causes an increase in heart rate and a simultaneous constriction of blood vessels, which puts a particularly troubling strain on the cardiovascular system. As sudden or prolonged stress takes over, your blood pressure will increase and remain high until you regain internal peace. Stress also sends inflammation markers into the bloodstream as defense preparation, but because your body doesn't need it, it only puts you at a greater risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Your Body Tenses Up All Over The Place
In addition to cravings and fat retention, cortisol can cause hypertension. Cortisol mixed with adrenaline (which is also released during stress) can cause neck pain, back pain, severe headache and migraines. The hormones flooding the blood stream trigger muscle tension while increasing sensitivity and thus pain. The muscles along the spine tend to contract and knot under stress. These knots can take weeks of work with a chiropractor or masseuse to disable.
Your Stomach Rebels Against You
The stomach and the brain are always in communication. Cortisol can trigger a multitude of digestion-realted issues. It can cause irritable bowls, constipation and irregularity. That fiery gut feeling triggered by stress is an indication of excessive production of digestive acids. Not only are they uncomfortable, but they can be damaging to the stomach lining.
Your Immune System Is All #ByeFelicia
Stress can suppress the body's immune system. On a superficial level, it causes an increase in oil production which can clog pores, while simultaneously lowering the body ability to fight bacteria, often resulting in acne. Statistically, people who suffer from chronic stress have low white blood cell counts. White blood cells help fight disease and infection. People who suffer from chronic stress are more likely to get colds and experience longer recuperation periods.
Sufficiently freaked out? Great! Time to destress.
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