for my first blogpost this year, I decided to shed some light on an issue literally everyone deals with from time to time. Stress.
What exactly is stress?
Stress has a bad rep, let’s be honest about it. But stress has always been a vital part in our survival. So we need to get some things straight first.
Stress is the body’s natural response to a demand or threat. It’s a chemical reaction putting the body in the so-called “fight-or flight”-mode.
The nervous system releases a flood of stress hormones and chemicals, such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine in order to prepare the body for a physical reaction.
The heart rate increases, muscles tighten, breathing quickens, blood pressure rises and sometimes even unnecessary bodily functions are being shut down. Energy increases, focus is sharper and reaction time is sped up – all these changes happen to enable us to react as quickly as possible against the threat.
E.g. if you are on a safari and a wild animal is preparing itself to attack you, your first response would be to run and find a safe place to hide instead of calmly staying where you are. Or if a bully is heading your way in the corridor and you see him/her early, you would avoid confronting them head on. Or if you have a deadline at work, stress will drive you to do anything that’s possible to ensure you will make it.
As you can see, stress is a vital part of our lives.
When does stress become harmful?
Now that we have cleared up that stress is actually good and normal to experience from time to time, we get to the kind of stress that can become detrimental to our health.
Chronic stress. Imagine your body would always be in a “flight-or fight”-mode. It would be unable to think straight. Not so good, right?
Chronic stress can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of a heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. Elevated levels of cortisol can increase blood sugar and blood pressure levels and decrease libido. The body becomes more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Other common consequences of chronic stress are:
- Obesity and eating disorders
- Cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes
- Menstrual problems
- Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men
- Skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema
- Permanent hair loss
- Gastrointestinal conditions, such as gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, GERD, colitis ulcerosa