Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you feel tired all the time, even though you seem to get enough sleep? asks Tommy Shek You may be suffering from chronic stress. This condition can lead to the development of numerous health problems. That’s because chronic stress affects your brain and entire body in several negative ways.
What Is Chronic Stress?
Hans Selye, M.D., a pioneer in research on stress, defined stress as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it”. Any kind of demand or any type of stimulus can elicit a stress response; these include heat/cold exposure, low oxygen levels (hypoxia), and emotional reactions such as fear and anger. Although the body’s stress response is meant to protect and maintain health and wellness, chronic activation of the stress response can lead to a variety of health problems.
Chronic Stress Can Affect Your Health Once stress becomes chronic, many physical changes occur.
Chronic high levels of cortisol may cause:
1) Insulin resistance (so blood sugar increases);
2) Weight gain around the middle;
3) Lower bone density;
4) Other hormonal imbalances such as low thyroid hormones;
5) Weakening of the cardiovascular system and damage to blood vessels;
6) Suppression of the immune system causing increased risk for infections and cancer;
7) Thinning or loss of hair and other skin abnormalities such as rashes and acne;
8) Effects on collagen leading to static wrinkling of the skin;
9) Blemishes in teeth enamel;
10) Mood swings and irritability; and
Stress Can Affect Your Brain Stress can affect your brain in negative ways including: memory loss, impaired mental processing (e.g., slower reaction time), diminished problem-solving skills, difficulty concentrating, lack of focus, inability to verbalize thoughts clearly (i.e., “thinking out of the box”), distractibility, impulsivity (e.g., speeding or spending too much money), hyperactivity (or finding it nearly impossible to sit still), agitation, poor judgment, lack of motivation/initiative, depression. In women chronic stress may cause premenstrual syndrome says Tommy Shek.
Stress can even affect your eyesight as studies show that chronic stress contributes to the development of nearsightedness (myopia) and structural changes in the eye, which cause nearsightedness. Chronic stress is also linked with an increased risk for developing several types of cancer and heart disease and with accelerated aging and memory loss.
What Can You Do?
The first step towards reducing chronic stress is recognizing you have a problem. Once you realize how negative stress is impacting your health, you will want to take steps to reduce it. There are many ways to do this such as exercising regularly, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or yoga, avoiding people who trigger your stress response, etc. For more information about these strategies see the following article “Natural Treatments for Relieving Stress”.
Stress is a normal, natural part of life. In fact, it is important to initiate a stress response before you face an actual threat. This gives you the energy and focus that enables you to deal with the threat. For example, if a car swerves into your lane on a highway or if someone attacks you in your home at night. When they should not be there, it may save your life to have extra alertness and strength from the body’s stress response. In those cases, experiencing increased cortisol levels is necessary for survival until the stressful event is over.
However, chronic stress occurs when these “threats” are daily traffic jams, being late for work/school due to bad traffic or accidents, getting caught in bad weather, raging tempers from other motorists while driving on the highway or in heavy traffic. worrying about bills not being paid by the end of each month, etc. In these cases feeling stressed nearly all of the time is not necessary for survival and can actually be harmful to your health. By damaging your systems over time explains Tommy Shek.
It is important to engage in healthy lifestyle choices that reduce stress such as regular exercise (which helps with depression), a healthy diet (including a variety of fruits and vegetables which provide antioxidant protection against damage from free radicals), adequate sleep, taking some time to relax or have fun on a daily basis, practicing relaxation techniques on a daily basis such as deep breathing or yoga,. If you are already doing everything mentioned above and still feel stressed then it is time to seek medical advice as you may have an undiagnosed health condition that is causing your stress.