Long term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in the body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of a heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process.Long term stress can rewire the brain leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
Understanding the natural stress response
If your mind and body are constantly on edge because of excessive stress in your life, you may face serious health problems. That's because your body's "fight-or-flight reaction" ? its natural alarm system ? is constantly on.
When you encounter perceived threats ? a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance ? your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies.
Cortisol, the primary stress hormone is intended to:
increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream and ensures that glucose is properly metabolized and helps to provide an instantaneous burst of energy when needed, especially when survival is threatened.
promote the release of insulin in order to maintain steady blood sugar level.
enhances your brain's use of glucose to heighten memory function and lower sensitivity to pain.
increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.
moderates cell activity and regulate blood pressure.
plays a key role in the healthy inflammatory response of the immune system.
suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.
This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.
But if cortisol levels stay high for prolonged periods, the natural curve becomes inverted, causing all sorts of unintended negative effects. Instead of sharpening your cognitive function, prolonged elevated cortisol levels reduce cognition and impair memory. Anyone who has ever drawn a blank when they?re put on the spot has experienced how stress can blitz even our ability to string a few words together. And rather than regulating healthy blood sugar levels, too much cortisol leads to elevated blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, and increases your appetite for refined carbohydrates. This cascades into stored abdominal, or belly, fat, and may even raise your risk for fatty liver. Excess cortisol also erodes bone density, breaks down tissue in your muscles and joints, deranges thyroid function, and dampens immunity. And there are long-term emotional effects, too, including heightened risks for anxiety disorders and depression. Extended high cortisol levels eventually disrupt overall hormonal balance, including the sex hormones, blunting libido and increasing symptoms of both PMS and perimenopause.
Common external causes of stress
External stressors are events and situations that happen to you and can increase your cortisol levels. While you may have control over some of these stressors and how much you let them affect you, there are times when they extend beyond your control. Some examples include:
Major life changes
Being too busy
Children and family
Some social situations- like giving a public speech
Internal irritations Some of the stress response can be self-induced. Those feelings and thoughts that pop into your head and cause you unrest are known as internal stressors or actions that you take that are bad or you. Examples include:
Symptoms of stress
Stress is a major cause of many of the following health problems:
Effects of stress ...
... On your body
... On your thoughts and feelings
... On your behavior
High blood pressure
Decreased bone density
Suppressed thyroid function
Blood sugar imbalances
Increased abdominal fat
Lack of focus
Drug or alcohol abuse
Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. When you recognize common stress symptoms, you can take steps to manage them, don't react as the picture on the left suggests.
Effective stress management involves identifying and managing both acute and chronic stress.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PROLONGED STRESS OR ADRENAL FATIGUE:
vSleep Disturbances: feeling tired despite sufficient hours of sleep; lack of energy in the mornings and also in the afternoon between 3 to 5 pm; often feel tired between 9 - 10 pm, but resist going to bed,; insomnia;difficulties in getting up in the morning.
vTendency to gain weight and unable to lose it, especially around the waist.
vMood disorders: anxiety, depression, nervousness, palpitation, feeling overwhelmed or crying easily for no apparent reason, decreased ability to handle stress.
vUnexplained hair loss, dry and thin skin, acne.
vDizziness when standing, lightheaded when rising from a laying down position.
vNausea, vomiting, diarrhea, alternating constipation and diarrhea.
vLoss of appetite, stomachache, dyspepsia.
vCravings for salty, fatty, and high protein food such as meat and cheese, feel better suddenly for a brief period after a meal.
vExtra effort required to perform daily tasks, inability to remember things.
vReliance on stimulants like caffeine.
vPoor immunity and frequent illnesses, high frequency of getting the flu and other respiratory diseases and these symptoms tend to last longer than usual.
vMuscle weakness, lethargy and lack of energy, tendency to tremble when under pressure. Pain in the upper back or neck with no apparent reason.
vReduced sex drive.
vIncrease symptoms of PMS for women; periods are heavy and then stop, or are almost stopped on the 4th day, only to start flow again on the 5th or 6th day.
vFeels better when stress is relieved, such as on a vacation.
vFood and or inhalant allergies.
vLow Body Temperature, Intolerance to cold.
Recognize what you can change and then change.
Learn ways to reduce your stress with relaxation techniques:
Even the typical day-to-day demands of living can contribute to your body's stress response. That's why it's so important to learn healthy ways to cope with the stressors in your life. Health professionals such as complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, doctors and psychotherapists can teach various relaxation techniques. But if you prefer, you also can learn some relaxation techniques on your own. In general, relaxation techniques involve refocusing your attention to something calming and increasing awareness of your body. It doesn't matter which relaxation technique you choose. What matters is that you try to practice relaxation techniques regularly to reap the benefits such as:
Listening to calming music
Other stress management actions should also include:
Stopping and examining the priorities in life-- and don't forget to name yourself as one of those priorities.
Learning to say no
Participating in physical activity of any kind
Fostering healthy friendships
Getting plenty of sleep
Learning to forgive yourself and others when, on occasion, you can't meet those standards -- it's called being human. And learn to accept help.
Just a brisk walk daily can help to distract yourself from what is causing stress in your life, allowing your body time to move and awaken. Taking these steps to manage your stress can have numerous health benefits. The payoff is peace of mind and — perhaps — a longer, healthier life