The research doesn’t lie: Chronic stress causes serious health consequences. Here, we will discuss what stress is, the impact that repeated exposure to stress, or “chronic stress,” has on the body, the physical and mental symptoms that can be caused by chronic stress and natural ways to soothe stress and minimize its occurrence.
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The Impact of Chronic Stress on the Body
Stress is defined as mental, physical or emotional factors that cause a buildup of tension inside an affected person’s body, resulting in negative health manifestations. Physical stressors can be environmentally-based, such as those arising from a person’s job, familial pressures or social anxieties. In certain instances, stress could be precipitated by internal issues like the pain or associated health issues brought forth by an illness.
At the biological level, continual exposure to stress stimulates the production of important bodily chemicals known as hormones. These substances play a vital role in helping the body function properly. Numerous internal systems and organs could not execute many basic human functions without the influence of hormones.
That said, someone dealing with continual periods of increased tension experiences an elevated bodily concentration of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. In short spurts, bursts of increased concentrations of hormones enable people to deal with everyday pressures and adapt to tension and, if need be, danger. However, continued elevated hormonal measurements can cause many bodily systems to overreact and potentially produce countless unpleasant, perhaps perilous symptoms.
The Symptoms of Stress
As previously noted, repeated occurrences of stress could adversely impact many bodily regions such as:
The Brain and Nervous System
The brain responds to increased incidents of stress by releasing what are known as “stress hormones.” These chemicals, like cortisol and adrenaline, can not only result in tension, anxiety and depression but might also cause brain shrinkage and brain cell damage that might eventually lead to cognitive problems like memory loss, concentration difficulties and various learning impairments.
Elevated levels of stress hormones can precipitate added pressure on an impacted individual’s heart and circulatory system. Resulting symptoms could include high blood pressure, heart palpitations (forceful heartbeat), rapid pulse (abnormally high heart rate) and blood vessel damage that might eventually lead to heart attacks, strokes and other disorders.
Stress can negatively impact a chronic sufferer’s digestive system. Tension can precipitate issues like stomach pain, gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation and, in severe instances, nutritional disturbances.
Immune System Disturbances
Chronic stress can cause an accumulation of inflammation inside the body’s cells, tissues and organs. Inflammation can destroy and weaken bodily tissues, thus leaving impacted regions susceptible to illness.
Increased Body Aches and Pains
Increased occurrences of inflammation can also result in muscle aches that produce pain and injuries, as well as a general feeling of malaise and fatigue.
Stress can also elicit a negative impact on sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen. Fluctuations in sex hormones might lead to diminished sex drive and sexual performance issues like erectile dysfunction.
It is important to note that some, if not all of the aforementioned symptoms could be caused by a host of illnesses and disorders. Therefore, it is important that anyone who experiences such manifestations speak with their health providers who can perform a thorough physical examination to rule out the presence of other more serious illnesses.
Natural Methods of Reducing Stress
If uncomfortable physical or psychological symptoms can be correlated to stress, there are several natural methods they might choose to employ to alleviate or possibly eliminate incidents of stress. Specific methods include:
Practicing Relaxation Techniques
Breathing exercises, as well as mind- and body- calming actions like yoga, might reduce individual occurrences of stress.
Consuming a Healthy Diet
Limiting one’s intake of foods containing unhealthy products like bad fats, salt and sugar and increasing their consumption of healthy and nutritious edible items might better help the body fight infection that might be precipitated by a weakened immune system.
Finding a Productive Outlet
People may alleviate stress by taking the time to participate in a productive method of stress release like exercise or through a hobby such as gardening, reading, watching movies or cooking.
Laughing is known to release tension and improve an individual’s overall mood.
Establishing a Group of Supportive People
Sometimes, having a group of people who are sympathetic to one’s circumstances might also offer a good outlet of tension. Ergo, the cultivation of a few people who will be willing to listen could provide a solid avenue of tension release.
Augment Diet With Natural Supplements
Numerous nutritional and dietary supplements contain natural ingredients like lavender, which are known to possess stress-reducing properties. In addition, certain supplements contain chemicals known as adoptogens. These chemicals possess properties that enhance the nervous system’s ability to adapt to a specific environment and, in particular, react to increased times of stress or danger. Some noteworthy herbal adoptogens include maca, ginseng and eleuthero.