12 Aug How Stress Affects The Body: You Deserve Better
Whether it’s stress with a capital S or stress with a lower case S, you still deserve better. Stress is not good for your body, your brain, your soul, and your relationships. No matter which way you’re spelling your stress, the stress is the same idea to the body and the brain. Let me break it down: You’re sitting in traffic, late for an important meeting or job interview. You turn off the music because you can’t hear it over yourself watching the minutes tick away on your iWatch. What nobody is talking about is how stress affects the body. And let me tell you girlfriend, You deserve better!
Here’s what’s happening in your brain, bloodstream and your adrenal glands. Your hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, decides to send out the order of STRESS: Send in the stress hormones! These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your body’s “fight or flight” response. Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles are ready for action to run and fight. This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly. But when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could put your health at serious risk, causing weight loss to slow down, insomnia to settle in, and pregnancy if you’re trying to conceive to halt.
What is Stress?
Stress is your body’s response to the daily events that occur in your life. Everyone experiences stress. Stress can sometimes be positive and give women that push to achieve notable goals. But stress can also be negative and destructive, taking its toll in many life areas such as health and relationships. When stress becomes chronic or excessive, it becomes harder to adapt and cope. Chronic stress builds up so that stress seems like a normal way of life for some of us. Oftentimes women are so busy that they do not take time to slow down long enough to think about how stress is negatively affecting them, unfortunately.
Yet if your stress response doesn’t stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated for longer than is necessary for real survival, it can take a toll on your health. As women, stress especially takes a toll on our heart health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being. Symptoms of chronic stress include but are not limited to:
How Stress Affects Your Body
In addition to the health symptoms that are brought on by stress, these additional health problems can develop in women exposed to stress over long periods of time.
- Depression and anxiety. Statistically speaking, women have higher rates of mental health conditions and other brain/neurological disorders than other genders including panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
- Heart problems. Stress increases blood pressure and heart rate. Heart disease is the number one killer of women every year! This is a big one to consider.
- Headaches and migraines. Tension headaches are more common in women than men. Migraines can be debilitating and can lead to more complicated health conditions. Some migraines are not to be ignored.
- Obesity. Women are more prone to stress-related weight gain than men as a result of adrenal fatigue, fluctuating hormones, and other women-specific health challenges.
- Bowel problems. Stress can lead to such bowel problems as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and gut imbalance.
- Pregnancy issues. Women with higher stress levels have a more difficult time becoming pregnant than women with lower stress levels.
- Menstrual problems. Premenstrual syndrome is more severe with increasing stress levels. Stress can lead to irregular or more painful periods — or even pause the menstrual cycle entirely.
How Can Women Better Manage Stress to Improve Life?
Women can manage stress by practicing healthy self-care strategies for coping with stress and allowing stress to have less impact on the body systems. I always have my clients take a step back and look at the negative stress signs in each of these six life areas: physical, emotional, mental, occupational, social, and spiritual. What would you like to be different in your life? What do you need to do to achieve more balance or potential? Here are some suggestions.
- Physical. Yoga, and other modalities that practice relaxation techniques (group or private yoga, meditation, listen to relaxing music), eat healthy (for example, follow the Mediterranean diet), schedule leisure time, get enough sleep (7 to 9 hours/night), and schedule time with like-minded friends.
- Emotional. Express your emotions, repeat positive affirmations, work toward a healthy self-esteem and confidence.
- Mental. Have a positive outlook, realistic thinking, resilient attitude, be creative, and make lists.
- Occupational. Establish doable goals, identify home-work balance, set boundaries, learn to say No.
- Social. Strive to maintain loving relationships, establish healthy friendships, stay connected with healthy minded friends.
- Spiritual. Find your meaning/purpose to be centered, focus on gratitude, stay in the present moment.
Write down your more reoccurring thoughts and the reasons why they keep coming up in your life.