We all experience stress for different reasons, whether that be due to a hectic family life or juggling your busy workload it can impact on our health and general wellbeing. Stress is normal and for short periods, it can be positive and can keep us focussed and alert, however long-term stress can trigger mental health issues and even exacerbate them. Stress can even be detrimental to our physical health too.
When we have short term stresses, our body’s nervous system is activated and produces adrenaline, corticosteroids and many other chemicals making the body work better, the heart rate to increase and specifically our brains become more alert, so short term this can be helpful.
However, continued stress or feeling stressed with no particular trigger can make you and your body feel exhausted. The chemicals and hormones can be constantly released and may cause physical issues including stomach problems and general aches and pains.
Stress can cause the stomach to become tense and irritated, so some people present with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including cramping, aches, diarrhoea and constipation when stressed.
General aches and pains
Tension in the muscles is often listed as common side effect of stress. When this is experienced over a prolonged period, this can cause pain and discomfort.
Effects on your cardiovascular system
Your blood pressure and heart rate increases when stress is experienced but quickly returns to normal once the stress has passed. Even though it is a completely normal short-term reaction to stress, it can feel uncomfortable.
There has been research done more recently which has linked stress with serious cardiovascular complications including greater risk of heart disease and stroke.
It is well known that when people are under stress, they are likely to smoke, overeat, drink more alcohol than recommended, all of which increase the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, when under stress the release of adrenaline, for example, can keep us awake at night which is associated with increased risk of obesity, heart disease and even type 2 diabetes.
Did you know, research has even shown that stress can have a negative effect on our immune system. Short spells of stress can boost our immunity (by limiting inflammation) however, prolonged stress can cause greater inflammation. Stress can reduce the effectiveness of white blood cells which are responsible for fighting infection.
First of all, recognising the signs of being stressed is vital. Whether the symptoms are feeling over-whelmed, irritable, having trouble concentrating or trouble making decisions can all be signs of stress. Other physical symptoms including, feeling exhausted, dizzy or getting recurrent headaches can all be signs to look out for.
Changes to your lifestyle
Increasing exercising can help you clear your head as well as reducing body tension. Yoga and Pilates are a great way of doing this. Exercise can further help any irritable bowel syndrome symptoms you may be experiencing.
Reducing alcohol, stopping smoking and a healthy balanced diet are always recommended.
Setting reachable goals and targets can help you feel more in control of your life and often help reduce stress, taking a simple walk during your lunch break can also be very beneficial.
Breathing exercising and mindfulness can help relaxation.
Having a support network around you can be helpful. talking to family, friends and work colleagues where you can air your stresses can help ease troubles and concerns you may have.
Finally get the help and support that you need.
If you have any concerns about your own mental health or have further queries on how you should deal with stress, speak to your GP. They can guide you in the right direction and offer advice on what services are available to you locally as well as any further management that may be needed.
We are all vulnerable to stress in all walks of life, so please don’t suffer in silence.