Stress comes in many forms. It helps us perform our best, or pushes us into action when we’re faced with danger. Yet, humans were not made to live in constant stress. However, in this day and age, stress is almost inescapable. Right from the get-go, our alarm clocks stresses us awake, reminding us that we have things to do, places to be, people to meet. Then we’re trapped in the hustle and bustle of morning traffic, and that’s even before the real workload of the day comes piling high on the desk. Make no mistake, this is a world in stress.
But what’s so bad about stress? Sure, it may not be ideal, but the most it can do to you is cause you to be more tired, isn’t it? Well, it isn’t. In fact, prolonged stress can be lethal. These are a few ways stress can do you real harm.
Stress, although releasing hormones to help you cope with high-pressure situations, direly affects your mental capabilities in the long term. Symptoms include having headaches, depression, anxiety or insomnia. This may be due to the tense muscles which constrict the brain.
Stress causes your muscles to tense up in anticipation of any force, so as to protect you from injury. They release again when you relax, but under constant stress, your muscles won’t have a chance to relax. Tight muscles over prolonged periods will cause aches and pains in many areas of your body, especially your neck and back.
Stress tightens your blood vessels, which will lead to higher blood pressure. Furthermore, as your body will require more glucose to function at a higher level under stress, your body will release more sugar into your blood, which over long periods may lead to type 2 diabetes.
Your heart pounds at an enhanced rate to provide your vital organs with blood that contains sugar and oxygen under stress, and doesn’t slow down if your stress level doesn’t dissipate. Additionally, the increased heart rate, coupled with the higher blood pressure from the restricted blood vessels, may result in the bursting of arteries and subsequently heart attacks.
During stressful moments, your lungs work faster to distribute oxygen faster to your organs which need it. This, however, will cause you to breathe rapidly, and aggravate any form of asthma that you have. Furthermore, as the muscles in your lungs tense up, you may find it harder to breathe and end up with shortness of breath.
Under stress, your stomach produces more stomach acid that may cause you to have heartburn or acid reflux. The way your food is digested is also affected, and may lead to constipation or diarrhoea. Nausea, vomiting and stomachaches are also a common problem.
7. Reproductive Organs
An adverse effect on your sexual organs may also be experienced. Although stress causes an increase in hormone production, this does not last. In fact, over time, testosterone levels will start to drop, and cause men to lose their sex drives, lowers sperm production, and in the worst case, leads to erectile dysfunction of impotence. For women, the menstrual cycle is affected by stress, which can lead to late or even missed periods.
8. Immune system
Initially, stress strengthens your body against infections and helps to heal wounds quickly. But over long periods, your immune system is worn down by stress, and thus causes your body to be more susceptible to diseases and viruses like flu. Under stress, you will take longer to recover from these ilnesses too.