Stress, Part One

 

You probably know that stress is bad for you. But do you know why?

A stress response in our bodies is normal and sometimes even helpful. If you have to make a presentation or do well on an exam, the stress you feel leading up to it can actually help you stay more keenly alert and actually perform better.

If we are facing an actual threat, our “fight or flight” response is actually necessary for our survival. Our pupils dilate so we can see a little better, our heart rate increases so we have more fresh blood delivering resources to our cells, more of that blood is diverted to our extremities so that we’re ready to run or fight for our lives.

The modern-day problem is that we can have a stress response when we’re sitting in a meeting, or sitting in traffic in our cars—when we don’t actually need more physical resources but our brains perceive that we do. When we are subjected to daily stressors we can get stuck in a perpetual state of imbalance—the part of our nervous system responsible for revving things up does its job well, but the part of our nervous system responsible for calming things down isn’t given enough opportunity to do its work.

And it isn’t only a response to a negative or threatening situation. Sometimes planning a fun vacation or celebratory event can cause people great stress. Biologically speaking, our bodies can respond the same way to the demands of “good” and “bad” challenges.

So we all feel stress from time to time and it serves a purpose. But when we experience chronic stress, when we constantly feel stressed out—it can cause real health problems.

Chronic stress diminishes our immune system, so people who are stressed out all the time tend to get sick more often. Our bodies divert energy and resources to fight or flight, and things like fighting viral infections (colds and flu) suffer.

Stress also causes our bodies to divert energy away from digesting food, so being stressed all the time leads to digestive issues including constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Emotional eating and stress hormones can cause us to gain weight, especially harmful belly fat. And stress can interfere with our bodies’ ability to absorb nutrients even when we eat healthy.

Stress also leads to having a short temper, frequent headaches, tight muscles and body aches, and insomnia. And being sleep deprived just makes things worse! Stress has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and depression. Both men and women can lose interest in sex, and men can experience erectile dysfunction and a reduction in quantity and quality of sperm due to chronic stress.

Chronic stress can even lead to diabetes. According to WebMD: “When you’re stressed, your liver puts glucose in your blood to fuel the fight-or-flight response. But this can be released when you don’t need it—say, in a stressful meeting, for example. If you’re already at risk for high blood sugar and it happens too often, it can lead to diabetes.”

So how do we deal with stress? The first step is understanding and accepting it! If we have the mindset that stress is necessary and can even be positive when we need focus, it’s less likely to be physically or emotionally taxing.

Next week: ways to combat the ill effects of stress.

Source: http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/rm-quiz-stress-test

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy Posted on July 18, 2017

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