What Stress Does To Your Body and 7 Steps to Help Manage It
What is Stress?
Stress is a feeling we all experience at times. When faced with stress, our body has an amazing way of increasing our alertness – we perform better, work harder, or run faster.
But there’s a catch. When we are faced with continuous challenges without relief or relaxation, symptoms of overload and exhaustion begin to show.
If stress is greater than our ability to cope, it can have major negative effects on our mental and physical health. That niggling headache or upset stomach could be traced back to stress!
It’s the long-term stress that we’re most concerned about
In the short-term, stress helps us cope with tough situations. It sends more oxygen to the brain and helps us respond quickly.
It’s when stress is ongoing that we get into trouble, especially when it interrupts our sleep patterns. We can find ourselves tossing and turning at all hours of the night.
Ever woken to a sinking feeling before remembering what it is you were worried about?
What’s going on in our bodies when stress becomes too much?
The numerous health symptoms caused by ongoing stress are our body’s way of saying “this is too much”.
Let’s break it down and take a look at how stress can wreak havoc on our health.
If under constant stress, our muscles tighten but don’t get the chance to relax again until we resolve the situation. Over time, tight muscles can lead to common stress symptoms such as headaches, back aches and shoulder pain.
Stress can also cause breathing difficulties. As our breath becomes short and fast, our heart is required to pump faster. If the heart is working too hard for too long, the blood vessels become constricted and we are at a higher risk of heart-related issues.
When we experience stress, the brain releases ‘stress hormones’ throughout our bodies. When stress becomes a long-term issue, these stress hormones begin compromise our immune system. We become more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.
The rush of hormones can also disrupt your digestive system. It is likely that you could experience nausea, vomiting, or an upset stomach.
Your mental health
Chronic stress becomes a factor in behavioural changes. Lack of sleep and irritability can result in anxiety, social withdrawal and depressive symptoms.
7 steps to take when feeling stressed
We don’t have to walk around with the weight of the world on our shoulders
If things are getting on top of you, a few small changes could be all you need to find the happiest, healthiest version of you. Just imagine how liberating that would be!
Eating lots of fruit and veggies with some wholegrain carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats will provide your brain with the right nutrients to help keep your mood stable.
Reduce smoking and alcohol
Although they provide temporary relief, the longer term consequences will leave you feeling worse as well put your health at risk which will only lead to more stress.
Take time out
Remind yourself that it is OKAY to take time out for yourself and do something relaxing. Prioritise this, as by helping yourself first, only then will you more effectively be able to attend to others.
Paying attention to your thoughts and feelings will help you manage difficult situations. Take a step back, take a deep breathe and then come up with a plan to help alleviate the situation.
Get restful sleep
Make a night time routine before bed which includes NO screens and plenty of things that help you feel relaxed. Try meditation and breathing exercises.
Be kind to yourself
Be your own best friend and always support and be kind yourself. You’re only human and no one is perfect. Always forgive yourself and get back up.
Exercise can help alleviate stress and improve your mood. Even if you go outside for a walk, it will help to boost your mood.
Exercise is a great place to start and there’s something about exercising with a group that’s motivating and fun.
And when it’s free, it’s even better!
The only thing we ask is that you have fun doing it!
If you are feeling overwhelmed or depressed it is important to seek help from your Doctor or you can always contact beyondblue if you want to remain anonymous.