How Stress Affects Your Mental and Physical Health
Stress is natural, we all have it in our lives. But you will be shocked to know that too much of it turns out to be a primary force for many mental and physical illnesses.
A physical, mental, or emotional factor that forces us to have bodily or mental tension. The sources of stress can be external such as psychological or social situations.
Or internal sources such as illness, or from a medical condition. This article describes the various ways stress damages our mental and physical health.
1. Chronic Stress May Ruin your sleep:
In most people stress is the primary force to cause sleepless nights and insomnia. When you are ready for bed your mind might make it so hard to fall asleep. It can be your worst enemy at night if you have stressful lifestyle.
Tensed mind makes it difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Thus it makes the quality of your sleep worse. Stress may cause hyperarousal, which have the ability to disturb the balance between sleep and wakefulness. However, it’s not always true. Many people under stress do not have insomnia.
In a 2015 study researchers tracked a group of middle-aged women over a nine-year period. Those women who reported the highest levels of stress had worse quality sleep.
They were more likely to report having insomnia. Another survey states that seven out of ten adults (including males and females both) in the United States experience stress, tension or anxiety everyday.
Most of them reported that stress affects their life and quality of sleep. For some people it is the main reason for their health problems. In the survey about one-third people reported excessive anxiety and persistent stress everyday or that they have had a panic attack because of this. Seven out of ten of those adults reported moderate insomnia.
2. It May Cause Hormonal Dysfunction:
Stress is one of the primary causes of hormonal imbalance in men and women. Stress increases the production of cortisol that causes the depletion of progesterone.
Once the stress has played it’s role and Cortisol levels decrease in your body, the hypothalamus signals to stop hormone production in the pituitary and adrenals.
But this doesn’t happen in the case of chronic stress, then it becomes a cycle of continual release of all of the stress hormones. This may result is dysfunction in the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands.
In case of women, pregnenolone is a hormone which is important for both coping with stress and producing female hormones. When they experience prolonged stress, pregnenolone gets diverted from the normal hormone path.
As a result, the production of female hormones is compromised. This condition can cause symptoms such as irritability, series of headaches, mood swings, poor sleep, and weight gain.
3. Stress Is The Primary Force To Cause Depression:
You might have heard that prolonged stress can provoke depression. Researchers have performed many studies with rats and humans and discovered a possible explanation for the phenomenon.
Stress has direct relation with your current mood. It’s simple to identify that if you are feeling happy then stress is not there right now. But it’s a natural phenomenon, it can come back.
Early symptoms of bad mood can include irritability, brain fog, absent mind, sleep disruption and cognitive changes such as weak focus. However, many times indirect effects of stress are the culprits to often cause depression to creep in.
Stress is natural and an important part of life. It’s not always bad. Sometimes it gives you the motivation you need to get the work done or performing your best. But when if becomes chronic and you don’t take steps to avoid it, it become a nightmare and finally may lead to clinical depression.
4. Stress May Cause Skin Problems:
It’s not a secret that stress affects your skin in a very bad way. In a 2007 study, mice subjected to conditions of psychological stress were found to be more susceptible to skin infections than mice housed under normal conditions.
A research shows that when you’re stressed, it may take longer than usual your skin to heal wounds, pimples and scars.
5. It Is Not Good For Your Baby If You Are Pregnant:
Many experts believe that chronic and severe stress have the potential of negatively affecting a pregnancy. Increasing levels of a mother’s stress hormones can also affect her growing baby in many ways. It may cause problems like low birth weight, preterm birth, and even sleep and behavioral disorders in young children. Stress has been linked to an increased risk of postpartum depression, autism, ADHD, schizophrenia, and reduced cognitive ability in children.
6. It May Cause Heart Problems:
Stress may contribute to factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol that increase your risk of heart disease. When you are stressed out, your body releases a hormone called adrenaline. This hormone is responsible for causing your heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise temporarily.
In cases of extreme stress, you can even experience “broken heart syndrome” condition, in which it feels exactly like a real heart attack. High blood pressure can damage your artery walls, which leads to creating blood clots and increasing risk of heart attack.
In some cases stress may not be a direct risk factor for heart disease. The factors are the ways and temporary solutions that people use to deal with stress, which may finally lead to heart issues. For example, some people tend to smoke or drink too much alcohol to cope up with stress.
7. Stressed People Tend To Exercise Less:
Stress might make you eat more and move less. Let’s look at the key points on how stress makes you feel exercising is a burden:
- You might not know that mental and physical fatigue affect the same area of your brain i.e the anterior cingulate cortex. So if you are mentally tired, you are more likely be physically tired as well.
- If you are mentally stressed out, it would significantly affect your physical performance.
- Mental stress ruins your exercise session in various ways such as impaired motor coordination, slower recovery, and higher risk of injury.
8. Stress Could Increase Your Odds To Get Sick.
American Scientists conducted a survey to be sure about this topic. They questioned a group of 176 men and women about different bad experiences in life that they had been going through in the past 12 months. Scientists dripped drops of common cold virus into their nose and checked if they caught the germ.
They concluded that those who had been under stress during this 12 month period were twice as likely to catch the germ and develop a cold. These tests proved how immune system becomes less sensitive to cortisol, which is a stress hormone which lowers the ability of our immune system.
9. Stress Could Trigger Hair Loss:
Now, many researches have been conducted on this topic. Many of them show that there’s a strong link between stress and hair loss. In simple words, in times of stress, the body tend diverts its nutrients from the area which are considered less important by your body such as hair and nails to more important areas of the body such as organs.
When you are under a lot of stress, the body can take time-out from growing hair and nails and focus other important organs’s recovery and healing. Another one of the main reasons is that stress can increase the levels of adrenaline in your body.
This can then be converted into cholesterol, which in turn may increase levels of testosterone in your body. Testosterone is a male hormone that is well known for having huge implications on hair growth.
10. When You’re Not sleeping well, You Make Poor Food Choices.
Kahn, clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine, told INSIDER magazine:
“People that are stressed make general poor food decisions and may use food as a comfort. You don’t usually munch on broccoli when you’re stressed. You’re usually grabbing for a doughnut and chips.”
A review published in 2015 concluded that sleep deprivation has a small but consistent effect on our eating habits. It tends to make us down more calories and more fat. Disrupted sleep drastically affects the way your brain works.
So you tend to think less about your health and you’re more likely to make poor food choices. Not getting proper sleep makes you tired, less active, short tempered, irritable, and foggy-headed but it doesn’t end there.
Many studies have shown that when you are not getting proper sleep, it subconsciously drives you to consume 385 more calories the next day. It’s because poor sleep disrupts the hormones that control appetite. The levels of hunger-inducing hormones increases and levels of hunger-suppressing hormones decreases.
11. Stress Affects Muscles and joints:
We have the tendency to relate joint and muscle pain with getting older or how hard we worked throughout the day. This is true but there might be others reasons behind it and stress is one of them.
But did you know that it could be linked to your very thoughts? Fear and nervousness about future or consequences of an upcoming event change the way you think.
Stress lowers your threshold for pain. It can cause pain, tightness or soreness in your muscles, joint pain and spasms of pain. It increases the symptoms of arthritis, fibromyalgia and some other similar conditions.
12. It May Affect Heart And lungs:
Too much of the stress hormone cortisol may make heart and lung conditions worse. These include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and asthma. If you have pain or tightness in your chest or heart palpitations, see a doctor as soon as possible to rule out a serious condition.
13. Stress Affects Gut Health:
Stress really interrupts the function of your digestive system. Your brain and gastrointestinal system are interconnected. It means that mental stress or anxiety can negatively affect your gut and digestive system.
Things may turn around, gut problems can in turn worsen stress levels over time. It may cause common symptoms such as pain, gas, diarrhea and constipation and even complex conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux (GERD) as well.
14. Effects In Shoulders, Head, Neck and Jaw:
Stress can trigger a series of headaches. It also may contribute to TMJ, a jaw disorder. Here’s how it affects your neck and shoulders.
- Stress makes the blood vessels large in your large muscle groups to allow faster oxygen delivery
- Tightness in the neck and jaw, and knots and spasms in neck and shoulders.
- Increases tension in the trapezius muscles that run across the top of the back
- Stress tries to restricts neck and shoulder movement
15. Stress Weakens Immune System:
Stress weakens your body’s defenses by damaging your immune system. We need a strong immune system prevent or fight diseases. It makes you more likely to catch colds or the flu. It also may make autoimmune conditions such as lupus and inflammatory bowel disease worse.
Anxiety and stress make us vulnerable to catch a cold or flu virus. It weakens the immune system’s ability to respond to invaders, leaving us more vulnerable. This can make us more likely to catch infections and disease.
16. It Disturbs Mental health:
Stress reduces you your excitement and enthusiasm for the activities that you used to thoroughly enjoy such as playing sport, hanging out with friends or even sex.
It brings the symptoms of depression and anxiety with itself. While dealing with stress people also tend to develop a poor eating habit and dull lifestyle with no exercise or physical activity. This makes symptoms even stronger.
Recent studies have proved that chronic stress can literally change the structure of the brain. It has the ability to affect both nerve cells and the connections between them.
It is totally possible that this structural change in brain can increase the chances of developing mental illness. There are many studies going on about investigating how these systems are involved in anxiety and depression. Some of these researches suggest a biochemical link between stress and mental illness.
This is a proven fact that if your stress becomes chronic, it would increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety in some people. Many researches have proved that the earliest response to stress happens in the brain within a few seconds of perceiving a event which triggers the stress.
Chemicals such as serotonin and adrenaline signal between nerve cells (neurotransmitters) are released. After this, stress hormones are released, which particularly affect areas of the brain which are responsible for memory and regulating emotions.
Question 1: Can Stress Cause Hair fall?
Answer: Yes it can trigger hair loss. When you are under a lot of stress, the body can take time-out from growing hair and nails and focus other important organs’s recovery and healing. Another one of the main reasons is that stress can increase the levels of adrenaline in your body.
Question 2: Can stress decrease immunity?
Answer: It might. Stress may contribute to factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol that increase your risk of heart disease. Immune system becomes less sensitive to cortisol, which is a stress hormone which lowers the ability of our immune system.
Question 3. How can I control stress?
Answer: Deep breathing exercises, meditation yoga and regular exercise can decrease you stress level.
Question 4: Does stress affect your sleep?
Answer: Yes it can disturb your sleep because stress causes overthinking.
If you liked How Stress Affects Your Mental and Physical Health, then you might also like:
- Harmful effects of Chronic Loneliness: Its Symptoms and Risks Involved
- What is SAD aka Seasonal Depression: Find out Causes, Symptoms and Treatment for (SAD) Seasonal Affective Disorder
- 12 Surprising Benefits of Music Therapy on your Body, Mind, and Soul
- Self-Efficacy: The Theory of Believing in Your Abilities | Learn 6 Best Ways to Increase Your Self-Efficacy
- Dealing with Haters: 13 Ways to stay Strong when dealing with Hate & Negativity