Can Stress Create Physical Problems?

Stress happens to be an inevitable part of our lives. It is not something that has emerged in the 21st century. Our predecessors also experienced stress, owing to the presence of the instinctual stress response system in their bodies. Mental health experts assert that momentary stress or “acute stress” as it is also referred to can’t be necessarily perceived as a bad thing. This type of stress can motivate the person experiencing it to meet a certain deadline. It can also give them a boost of energy that is needed to get them through a totally uncomfortable situation. 

However, when your body is put through constant stress, or “chronic stress”, it begins to experience some adverse effects both on a physical and emotional level.

Introduction to the Stress

Every time you get stressed by any event in your life, your body usually switches to the “fight or flight” mode in order to help you face the situation. Such is a response that shifts the entire body’s resources towards the provision of protection from the danger it is facing at the moment. This is a mechanism that is inherited from our ancestors, who were used to responding to calamities such as attacks from wild animals and escaping the stormy weather.

Unfortunately, human evolution has not accommodated the drastic changes that have occurred in our lifestyles in the past 150 years. Science has it that our DNA is usually altered by 0.1% for every 10,000 years of evolution, thus we still have a long way to go as far as the adaptation of the current lifestyle and working patterns is concerned.

A major conclusion that we can make is that our instincts are some 10,000 years behind our current lifestyle. This means that the stress response system could be responding to certain situations in a manner that, in the current world, can be viewed as impractical and not helpful. To make matters worse, the responses to the triggers are being fired continuously. This, inevitably, leads to adverse effects on our bodies. 

Why is stress so terrible?

As we already established, stress can be helpful if it momentary, but can have terrible effects if it is chronic. During the fight or flight response, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. This is meant to give us a rush of energy which leads to an increase in the heart beat, breathing rate, and the dilation of blood vessels in our limbs. The digestive system is also usually instructed to begin channeling more glucose into the bloodstream.  Once you have dealt with the issue that is stressing you, your body’s system resumes their normal functions. If you are however, constantly experiencing stress, then your body may get stuck in a cycle of the disruption of the normal processes, which can eventually lead to the nervous system being overworked. Instead of helping us get through life smoothly, the pressure ends up making us feel overwhelmed or even unable to cope. One of the main disadvantages of stress is that it causes the body to channel all its energy towards the management of the current situation and the rest of the body ends up suffering. 

Health Issues It Can Create

Chronic stress can affect your body in numerous ways. Some of the main health issues that it can create include: 

Gut and Digestion

Whenever the body diverts its energy towards the management of stress, the digestion of the food your consumed ends up being quite low on the functionality priorities list. Chronic stress has the potential to slow down the movement of food through the gut, as well as the absorption of nutrients. This leads to conditions such as constipation and bloating, and in extreme cases, stomach ulcers. The spike in the acid levels in the stomach that is usually caused by stress also leads to heartburns.

  • Tension & Muscle Pain

The response system usually works by preparing the entire body for a physical reaction, such as fighting or running. If one is caught up in traffic, and is stressed because he or she is about to miss a very important meeting, then the response system will be preparing the body to flee, as much as it is not necessary. 

With chronic stress, the muscles in your body will be put in a state of constant tension, due to the increase in the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the bloodstream. This unfortunately leads to you suffering from migraines, constant headaches, neck pain and shoulder pain. This also significantly increases the chances that your body will succumb to sports injuries. 

Depression and Mental Health

The consistent pressure on your body to manage the stress ends up taking a toll on your nervous system, which is something that leads to constant fatigue, depression as well as other anxiety disorders. The part of the brain that is responsible for memory is usually affected by traumatic stress, and this leads to memory loss, poor concentration, as well as difficulty in the creation of new memories. 

Heart Issues

Stress usually affects the flow of blood to certain organs since the response system prioritizes the transport of oxygen and adrenaline to your muscles. This leads to an increase in one’s blood pressure. An increase in the level of cortisol in the body usually affects functions of one’s artery walls, which is something that can lead to a buildup of cholesterol. Such are the conditions that lead to one having a heart attack or even a stroke. 

Weakens Immune System

Stress management hormones have been established to weaken the body’s immune system. Cell regeneration is usually affected every time you undergo a stressful moment, since, since the body has to put it on hold as it deals with the situation at hand. Constant stress therefore makes one susceptible to various pathogens, as well as an increase in their recovery time from injuries. 

Leads to One Becoming  Over Weight

With emotional stress comes overeating and constant hunger as a coping mechanism. This is accompanied by an instruction to the liver to produce more blood sugar. The body, is at this time required to produce more insulin to regulate the excess blood sugar. Stress, unfortunately, leads to the production of insulin being slowed down significantly. This eventually leads to increase in the fat levels in one’s body, hence an unanticipated increase in weight. Various organs are affected when one becomes overweight, including the spine. A Livermore chiropractor can help you determine whether your current weight is impacting on the structure and health of your spine, as you also employ stress management techniques to help keep the weight in check.

What can you do to handle stress?

Stress, as you may eventually find out, is hard to completely eliminate. Some stressors may not leave your life, and most of them are usually out of your control. You can however manage the stress by doing the following: 

  • Gentle exercise such as taking a walk or yoga.
  • Eating a healthy diet that helps your central nervous system function properly at all times. 
  • Meditation and mindfulness can also help you de-stress.
  • Making minor changes to your daily routine. You can for instance introduce a no-technology session in schedule.