How Does Stress Affect Your Body The Latest Research Shows It Can Vary
Stress is a hell of a state of mind. Not only can it make you feel frantic, overwhelmed and on the verge of tears, but new science also shows that it can wreak some serious havoc on the body. Stress can affect your body in many different areas, some of which might not be immediately obvious.
It is well known that stress and stressors directly affect our health, whether we want to admit it or not, Dr. Sherry Ross M.D., a womens health expert at Providence Saint Johns Health Center, tells Bustle. From your heart to your brain and immune system, stress can mess with your body, in both short-term and more permanent ways.
Stress may seem like a good motivator to power through your to-do list, but the stakes for reducing stress are high. Decades of research tell us that stressors and anxiety can impact our organs, our nervous system, our guts, and our brains. Carrying stress around can make you more vulnerable to illnesses and infections or make your immune system overreact and hurt your cells. Recent research has shown how it can hurt your gut, whiten your hair, and even shrink your brain.
Heres what stress can do to your body be ready to grab a stress ball.
Understand What Is Happening Mentally
Mentally, our brain seeks to predict and control for safety.
Understanding any potential risk helps us, from a safety perspective, to avoid or decrease risk. When the risk is a virus, our attempts to control might include hyper-focusing on gaining information and attempting to make plans for response. We might attempt to do this by consuming a large amount of news media, which can have the unintended consequence of increasing the sense of risk. Managing exposure to news can be helpful to decrease anxiety in these situations.
Another strategy is to remain focused on what you do have control over, rather than what you do not control. For instance, during a pandemic, you may not be able to go to the gym and exercise or eat out at your favorite restaurant. But if these activities reflect important commitments and pastimes, you could exercise at home or outdoors, and you could try recreating a favorite meal in your kitchen.
Mindfulness meditation, in which the goal is to bring non-judgmental attention to the present moment, also helps us to pull the brain out of states of anticipatory stress and back to the moment.
Are There Any Side Effects To Listening To Binaural Beats
There are no known side effects to listening to binaural beats, but youll want to make sure that the sound level coming through your headphones isnt set too high. Lengthy exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss over time. This is roughly the level of noise produced by heavy traffic.
Binaural beat technology could be a problem if you have epilepsy, so you should speak to your doctor before trying it. More research is needed to see if there are any side effects to listening to binaural beats over a long period of time.
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Ways Stress Can Affect The Body
Picture this: Youre powering through the work day when all of a sudden youre asked to join your manager for a quick meeting. Your palms begin to sweat. Your heart races. Your body says, Get ready.
Sound familiar? When youre faced with a stressful situation, your hypothalamus, a region of the brain that links the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland, responds by sending out stress hormones. This response is designed to quickly prepare your body to react to an emergency. However, when this stress response fires continuously throughout the day, it can put your overall health and wellbeing at risk.
Since April is Stress Awareness Month, we decided to dig into the 6 ways stress can affect different systems of the body.
The History Of Human Response
Our bodies have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years primarily with a drive towards safety.
Our nervous system does a great job of keeping us safe from perceived risks through the fight or flight system. Essentially, an occurrence that is perceived as risky by the brain results in the sympathetic nervous system sending signals throughout the body that aid in protection.
Our heart rate increases to bring energy to our large muscle groups so we can fight or flee from the perceived risk.
Our brain also hyper-focuses on risk.
Deemed negative cognitive bias, this tendency of the mind keeps us aware of potential risks so that we can avoid them and problem-solve them. Behaviorally, we then take steps to mitigate risk: largely, avoidance activities.
Humans co-evolved with an environment with specific threats in place. As such, our bodies are great at responding to these clear-and-present dangers: a rustle in the forest that could be a predator, or a warring faction of humans trying to take our resources. These are situations in which fight or flight is particularly useful. However, a situation like a microscopic virus creating a very real risk to health and well-being is a situation for which our nervous systems fight or flight response falls short.
It is difficult to physically fight or flee an aggressor that we cannot see and can easily transmit between people.
However, understanding our bodies safety response can help us intervene and decrease our stress response.
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Nine Ways Stress Is More Dangerous Than You Think
From early aging to heart problems, the effects of the day-in, day-out grind can damage your health in irreversible ways.
High-pressure workdays, long commutes, raising kids, not enough sleep or exercise, trying to make ends meet.
The accumulated stresses of everyday life can damage your health in irreversible ways from early aging to heart problems to long-term disability.
Some people believe stress makes them perform better. But thats rarely true. Research consistently shows the opposite that stress usually causes a person to make more mistakes.
Besides making you forget where you put your keys, stress also can have dramatic negative impacts on your health.
Here are nine examples:
Changes In The Nervous System And Hormonal Changes
The Hypothalamus produces the neurohormone called Corticotropin-releasing hormone, causing the pituitary gland to release the adrenocorticotropic hormone into the blood stream. The latter reaches the cortex of the adrenal gland to release adrenaline and cortisol.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone and its function is to redistribute energy to the brain and major muscles that would be fighting or fleeing.
|Hypothalamus secretes Corticotropin-releasing hormone|
|Corticotropin-releasing hormone stimulates pitutary gland|
|Pitutary gland secretes Adrenocorticotropic hormone|
|Adrenocorticotropic hormone stimulates cortex of adrenal gland|
|Cortisol and Adrenaline:|
|The above mechanisms help the body to react deliberately and purposefully to a stressful situation.|
Other hormonal changes in the blood that are involved in stress response include:
Epinephrine or adrenaline: A hormone released by medulla of adrenal gland. Adrenaline serves as chemical mediator for conveying the nerve impulses to the effector organs like heart, liver and muscles.
Serotonin: A neurotransmitter, from the brainstem, helps in mood regulation. Serotonin dysfunctions due to stress are associated with anxiety, fear and depression-like symptoms.
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Your Cuts And Scrapes Just Won’t Heal
Your body’s stress response draws water away from your skin’s outer layers, possibly as a way to keep you hydrated in an emergency situation, which undermines your skin’s ability to regenerate and repair itself, shows research published in JAMA Dermatology. Compared to their calm cohorts, students who were frazzled from winter midterms showed more redness and irritation on their forearm skin after the researchers slapped on and removed cellophane tape.
Frequent Colds And Infections
Again, short-term stress can actually temporarily increase your immune systems ability to protect you from illness. Chronic stress, however, causes your immune system to tank and leaves you especially susceptible to illness. And again, if stress also disrupts your sleep cycle, your normal exercise routine, or your eating habits, then you are that much more likely to get sick. At Complete Care, we see this happening the most often during the holidays, when overburdened schedules and the cold and flu season combine
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What Influences Our Capacity For Coping With Stress
Several factors influence our capacity for coping with stress:
- The presence of a social network
- Our skill and confidence in assessing a complex situation and then developing and evaluating solutions
- Personal variables such as physical health, experience, confidence, anxiety threshold and problem-solving abilities .
Stressful events are a universal part of the human experience. You may or may not be able to change your current situation, but you can take steps to manage the impact these events have on you.
What Is Stress And How Does It Affect Our Brains And Bodies
Stress is our reaction to a threatening event or stimulus. Such events and stimuli are called stressors. People perceive and react to stressors differently. Something one person would rate as highly stressful might be rated as considerably less stressful by someone else. These responses are affected by such factors as genetics and life experiences.
Stress can be classified as positive, tolerable or toxic. Toxic stress occurs when we are faced with a continuous stressor or triggered by multiple sources and can have a cumulative toll on our physical and mental health. It is an experience that overwhelms us and leaves us feeling powerless and hopeless.
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Stress Could Trigger Depression
When it comes to depression and stress, “it’s sometimes tough to tease out which is the chicken and which is the egg,” said Geyer. “But there’s clearly a strong link.”
Some research says that stress can suppress the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus. That’s a part of the brain that’s shown to be smaller in some depressed people. Geyer also noted that in some people, chronic inflammation appears to play a role in the onset of depression. And chronic inflammation, can be caused by chronic stress.
“Stress, or being stressed out, leads to behaviors and patterns that in turn can lead to a chronic stress burden and increase the risk of major depression,” Bruce McEwen author of The End of Stress as We Know It, told WebMD.
The bottom line is that depression can be caused by a combination of factors. Still, the National Institute of Mental Health does list stress as a risk factor for the disease.
Your Sleep Is Affected
Sleep deprivation from stress can physically alter your brain, making neurons less capable of communication and impairing your thinking processes. And this relationship goes way back a review of the science around stress and sleep published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews in 2019 found that being stressed just after birth can affect our sleep all the way to adulthood.
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Stress Can Promote Disease
Some people are more prone to certain diseases, and chronic stress can give these conditions the green light.
Stress has been linked to illnesses that include cancer, lung disease, fatal accidents, suicide, and cirrhosis of the liver.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered that children exposed to chronic stress are more likely to develop a mental illness if they are genetically predisposed.
Observable Symptoms Of Stress
Stress produces numerous symptoms that vary according to person, situation, and severity. Problems resulting from stress include decline in physical health or mental health, a sense of being overwhelmed, feelings of anxiety, overall irritability, insecurity, nervousness, social withdrawal, loss of appetite, depression, panic attacks, exhaustion, high or low blood pressure, skin eruptions or rashes, insomnia, lack of sexual desire , migraine, gastrointestinal difficulties , heart problems, and menstrual symptoms.
Stress and the body: This diagram shows the effects of stress on various parts and systems of the body.
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How Does Chronic Stress Affect Your Health
The bodily changes that happen during moments of stress can be very helpful when they happen for a short time. But when this happens for a long period of time, producing too many stress hormones can affect your health. Health problems can include:
Stomach pains, due to a slow-down in the rate that the stomach empties after eating also diarrhea due to more activity in the colon.
Increase in appetite, which can lead to weight gain. Being overweight or obese puts you at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Weakened immune system so that you are more likely to have colds or other infections.
Anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, and lack of interest in physical activity. Memory and decision-making can also be affected.
Increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and the level of fats in your blood . Also, increase in blood glucose levels, especially in the evening, and appetite. All of these are risk factors for heart disease, atherosclerosis , stroke, obesity, and diabetes.
How Your Body Reacts To Stress
A little tension can keep you on your toes. Too much can break down the system
We all feel stressed from time to time its all part of the emotional ups and downs of life. Stress has many sources, it can come from our environment, from our bodies, or our own thoughts and how we view the world around us. It is very natural to feel stressed around moments of pressure such as exam time but we are physiologically designed to deal with stress, and react to it.
When we feel under pressure the nervous system instructs our bodies to release stress hormones including adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. These produce physiological changes to help us cope with the threat or danger we see to be upon us. This is called the stress response or the fight-or-flight response.
Stress can actually be positive, as the stress response help us stay alert, motivated and focused on the task at hand. Usually, when the pressure subsides, the body rebalances and we start to feel calm again. But when we experience stress too often or for too long, or when the negative feelings overwhelm our ability to cope, then problems will arise. Continuous activation of the nervous system experiencing the stress response causes wear and tear on the body.
This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Holly Blake, Associate Professor of Behavioural Science, University of Nottingham
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The Physical Effects Of Stress How The Body Reacts
The physical effects of stress are directly correlated to the power of our behavioral response to the stress. We are including this article as a reference so that you become aware of the ways your body responds to the stressors that can be encountered on a daily basis.
Stress can affect your health in different ways. The mind and body are directly linked, and the interaction between them can produce varying physical changes in our bodies. Our brain notices a stressor, a physical reaction is triggered, and the reaction can lead to further emotional reactions and mental and physical damage.
Stress and tension headaches are often connected. The headache you experience is a physical response to excessive stressors. High blood pressure is another example of how stress can have damaging consequences. The physical effects of stress can add to health related disorders. How does this happen? Lets look at how the body reacts to stress.
Stress is a natural response your body has to external and internal events that you perceive as threatening. Although this was a helpful response when our ancestors were being chased by wild and dangerous animals, now the physical effects of stress can be harmful to your health. Stress has widespread effects on all of your body’s major systems.
The main part of the brain handling the emotions of stress is known as the limbic system. It is set into motion when you perceive a threat. The network of endocrine glands begin to react.
How Does Your Body Respond To Stress
The feeling of stress is one of the most universal feelings around. From continent to continent, individuals feel and react to stress daily in their workplaces, in their home environments and-most recently-in the wake of an unknown enemy that takes shape as a virus. When does this stress become anxiety? What are the physical signs that one is feeling stress? And what can yoga and mindfulness do to help us counteract the effects of stress and anxiety on our body and mind?
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Respiratory And Cardiovascular Systems
Stress hormones affect your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. During the stress response, you breathe faster in an effort to quickly distribute oxygen-rich blood to your body. If you already have a breathing problem like asthma or emphysema, stress can make it even harder to breathe.
Under stress, your heart also pumps faster. Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to constrict and divert more oxygen to your muscles so youll have more strength to take action. But this also raises your blood pressure.