5 Negative Side Effects of Stress
We all deal with stress. We can be stressed from work, from family, from drama with our friends, and from other sources. Most of us know a few of the things that happen to our bodies when we are stressed:
- We have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning
- We can be irritable
- After a long day, those second and even third glasses of wine start to look incredibly appealing
However, prolonged stress can have more serious consequences on both the body and the mind. What’s more, we may not immediately make the connection between our stress and these lesser-known symptoms. Here are five negative side effects of stress that you may not know about.
While the exact link between stress and the health of your heart isn’t fully clear, here’s what we do know:
- Stress can cause high blood pressure
- Stress also makes many people more likely to engage in behaviors that aren’t heart healthy, like smoking, drinking, overeating, and not exercising
Over time, stress can create a perfect storm of cardiovascular troubles.
Prolonged levels of stress causes your body to raise its levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s commonly referred to as “the stress hormone.” Cortisol can increase your appetite, especially for so-called comfort foods (which usually are not healthy). It also can cause fat around your midsection, which is easy to put on, but very difficult to take off.
Neck and Back Pain
It’s no secret that stress makes you tense, but where are you holding that tension? For most of us, it’s the neck or back—mid and/or lower. Unfortunately, such muscle tension and pain can cause us to feel more stressed, which prolongs the discomfort.
When you’re stressed, your body reverts to “fight or flight” mode, which can slow down several body processes, including digestion and bowel function. Additionally, many will eat unhealthy foods and back out of their exercise routine when they’re stressed, which adds to the problem.
We already mentioned that cortisol can enable weight gain, but it also affects memory. When you’re dealing with stress, cortisol hinders your brain from both creating and storing new memories and recalling old ones. It’s an especially important lesson for students who might try to study while they’re stressed, since their own body is probably working against them in their efforts to make high grades.
Help is Available!
We cannot get away from stress. It is part of life. So rather than stressing over how can I be free of stress, here are some tips on how to better manage stress such that it doesn’t take tole on your body and mind.
- Exercise has been shown to be the number one way to help alleviate stress. Even if it just walking around the block to start with. Don’t feel like you have to train for the Olympics to gain the benefit of exercise, just pursue some form of exercise.
- Don’t under estimate the value of sleep. It while we sleep that the body does most of its detoxing, repair work, and making of energy. In addition, while sleeping, the subconscious mind gets its time to sort, process, and work on unsolved issues.
- Deep breathing exercises: going outdoors, and slowly breathing in and out ten times, while taking in the awe of God’s creation.
- Talking with a trusted friend. The idea here is not for them to solve your problems, rather lightening your load as you share your burden.
- Pursuing a creative activity or hobby, such art, music, etc.
- Taking a class or course that requires little to no outside work.
- Do volunteer work for those less fortunate than you.
- Set aside time each week to finish a project around the house that has been on hold for too long. Don’t try to finish it in one session; rather schedule 30-60 minutes a week to work on it.
- Massage therapy can both alleviate body pain caused by stress and help you relax. It truly is a stress reliver, not just a “feel good” endeavor.
- Finally, if needed, talking things through with a trained counselor, especially one who specializes in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can give you a new perspective to better handle the struggles of life.
The goal is not to be free of troubles (because that will never happen). Rather the goal is to learn how to be free in the troubles.