Stress, which is defined as “a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism” effects millions of people every day. Stress can be caused by physical, mental, or emotional stimuli (1).
Physical stress is caused by things such as the burden of recent injury or illness that make performing normal, daily activities extremely difficult or performing hard labor that is physically taxing and that demands more of you than you are physically able to do.
Mental stress is a kind of stress that is often experienced by students who are overburdened by their course load or on the job when you under pressure to meet a deadline or to do extensive research. Emotional stress, which is perhaps the most common form of stress, can be caused by negative relationships, harassment on the job, the death or illness of a loved one, fighting with someone close to you, the depression associated with a loss or illness, divorce, or a wide number of other factors.
Although some degree of stress, whether physical, mental, or emotional may be unavoidable and a part of normal life, most people today are suffering from harmful overloads of stress that are too great in both duration and frequency and the effects of stress are not only interfering with our overall health, but stress is actually killing us. When the body is exposed to stress, the brain triggers the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. Because the body reacts to stress with the “fight or flight” response, the body prepares for this regardless of whether the danger, or stress, is a physical or emotional one. When these hormones kick in, non-essential systems in the body are slowed down or switched off including the digestive system, the immune system, and the reproductive system. Because of this, the effects of stress affect literally every part of the body and mind.
Some of the effects of stress include:
- Pain and tension in the back, neck, and shoulders
- Restlessness, Insomnia, and other sleep disorders
- Problems with memory and concentration
- High blood pressure
- Chest pains
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Frequent illnesses
- Skin Outbreaks
- Heart Disease
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight Gain
- Chronic Pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Autoimmune diseases
As you can see, the effects of stress are numerous and can be quite serious. The effects of stress affect your ability to sleep and other basic functions that your body needs to maintain itself physically as well as mentally and emotionally. You can minimize the negative effects of stress in your life by learning ways to reduce and manage stress, finding ways to relax through meditation and exercise such as Tai Chi, utilizing aromatherapy sprays on your bed linens or in your bath to help you relax, and finding ways to constructively deal with the stress in your life that you cannot eliminate (2). The effects of stress can ruin your health, but you do not have to let it get the best of you; you can beat stress for a healthy and more peaceful you!