3 Really, Really Bad Ways Stress Affects Your Body

I get stressed out a lot. I get anxious and overwhelmed and have little baby freakouts alone in my room, and then life goes on because that's just who I am, inherently. A stress-monster. But thanks to this new TED-Ed video, which illustrates what stress does to your body with very spooky and dramatic cartoons, I am willing to try literally anything to lower my stress levels. Because apparently otherwise I will die soon.

And now I'm stressed about that. Awesome.

The negative health effects of stress are not a recent discovery. Studies have found that people suffering from stress can struggle with self-control, as well as sleep problems. The benefits of stress-reducing exercises like meditation and reading are well-documented as well, but I guess I always thought I, personally, was like a fox — as in, foxes have beautiful red fur because of the long-term, acute stress of living in the wild. Domesticate them, and they turn grey. I was just built to be stressed, I assumed, and all those bad, scary, stress-related things just didn't affect me. I think I might have been wrong.

Here are just three of the awful, terrible, no good, very bad things that happen to you when you're stressed. Scroll down to watch the full video for more, because obviously that is exactly what you should do when you're already freaking out. (Except no. No, it is not. But we're all going to do it anyway, aren't we?)

1. Increased Chance of Heart Attack and Stroke

Adrenal glands release the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine (aka adrenaline), and norepinephrine into your blood stream, which can cause your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow. Over time, this leads to high blood pressure. Cortisol also contributes to a person developing atheroscelorsis, or the build of plaque in arteries, which can cause strokes, heart attacks, and heart disease.

2. Digestive Issues

When you're stressed, your brain sends SOS messages to your enteric nervous system, sometimes referred to as your "second brain" (weird, I know), which controls your gastrointestinal tract. Acute stress, be it bad grades, looming finals, or even driving in traffic, can affect gastric mobility. Heartburn, nausea, constipation — all potential symptoms. In some cases, stress can even contribute to a person developing more serious disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Which, from what I understand, is just overall horrible.

3. Immune System Damage

Maybe this explains why I would be sick for months and months at a time during college. Sure, sleep deprivation and heavy drinking definitely didn't help matters, but I was really, really stressed for a good portion of those academic trials. Stress can affect the function of your immune cells, causing chronic inflammatory conditions and rendering what would be an otherwise normal immune system susceptible to autoimmune disorders and infections.

Watch the full video below:

Images: BLW Photography/Flickr; TED-Ed/YouTube (4); Giphy