Let’s face it, we all face stress. It’s the body’s natural way of trying to regulate both internal and external factors that pose a threat to your wellbeing. However, not all stress is created equal. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be your only hope in combatting mounting stress in your life. With that in mind, it’s vital to understand what stress does to your mind and body while you’re on your mission for healing. When your body senses danger (perceived or otherwise), it releases both adrenaline and cortisol, which affect the body differently.
Adrenaline is a stress hormone used to help you survive in dangerous situations. It helps send blood to necessary parts of the body and also reduces the body’s ability to feel pain. This allows you to run longer, train harder and temporarily improve mental alertness. Adrenaline gives you the nervous and jittery feeling some athletes feel before a big game and some artists feel before taking the stage. It provides a sense of excitement and anticipation that some thrive on. However, heightened levels of adrenaline with no outlet can leave your heart rate high and the feeling of overwhelming anxiety.
Cortisol is the stress hormone most often linked with anxiety, depression, and weight gain. However, cortisol is also what helps control blood sugar and regulates the energy present in your body. Cortisol releases glucose into the body to help keep energy levels up, however prolonged release of glucose can lead to excess weight gain. It also narrows the arteries making it more difficult for blood to flow to the necessary parts of the body; this can lead to heart attack and stroke.
The body produces different hormones to help regulate things that are happening in the body. The danger becomes when any of these hormones is continually released in excess not giving the body a chance to return to its normal state.
How Stress Affects the Body
Brain – In the brain, stress can cause your thoughts to wander quickly from one topic to the next. You may feel scatterbrained or confused. The rapid pace of your thoughts can also cause sleep problems, as your brain is unable to wind down and allow you to rest in a relaxed state.
Gastrointestinal System – Stress can cause upset stomach and lack of appetite. Your stomach starts to produce acid at a rapid rate, which can cause irritation in the lining of the stomach and also lead to acid reflux, more commonly known as heartburn.
Musculoskeletal System – When your body is under duress, your muscles automatically tighten to help preserve their state. The same act occurs when you lift weights or heavy items. The same contraction of the muscles can put undo pressure on other parts of your body. Men who are constantly in a stressed state may find that they have frequent backaches, shoulder pains, and neck soreness.
Reproductive System – Men under chronic stress can find their reproductive system compromised and have been noted to experience moments of erectile dysfunction.
Respiratory System – Stress naturally speeds up your heart rate, which in turn speeds up how quickly your lungs work to supply your heart and other organs with oxygen. The rapid increase in your breathing patterns may be temporarily helpful in regards to short bursts of activity but in the long run, your body is not getting the full benefit of full oxygenation provided by steady deep breathing.
Signs your body is stressed
Your body will always tell you when it is stressed and it may not always present itself in the way you are used to. Increased heart and respiratory rate are dead giveaways that something is not right in the body, but there are other things that happen, which may signify stress.
Change in sex drive – If your libido has suddenly decreased your body may have an imbalance in the sex hormones that drive your system.
Loss or increase in appetite – Much like sex, if you find your appetite varies from your average day and nothing external has changed (such as schedule or workout regimen), stress may be the culprit. Depending on the nature of your typical appetite you can find that you are either eating significantly more if you don’t typically eat much or not hungry at all if you are the type of person to eat solid meals at regular intervals.
Hair loss – Prolonged chronic stress can lead to hair loss. If you suddenly find yourself losing more hair than normal or balding in certain areas (that don’t appear to be age related), stress may be the cause.