How Stress Impacts Your Body

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How Stress Impacts Your Body
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About the Author

Eryl McCaffrey

Eryl McCaffrey

Eryl McCaffrey is a yoga teacher from Oakville, Ontario and a passionate health and wellness writer. When she’s not reminding students of how powerful they are on their mats, she’s writing about ways to find happiness, peace and freedom in this life. Eryl also loves hiking, singing and jumping out of her comfort zone whenever she gets the chance! Check out her blog.

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We all have stressful events in our lives. Stress impacts each of us differently. Some of us dive head-first into a bag of chips when the going gets tough, while others hibernate at home, praying for the chaos to magically disappear.

Whatever your method is for handling stress, it’s crucial to understand how it impacts your body and what you can do to prevent it. The consequences of stress can go far beyond break-outs and sweaty hands– I’m talking about long-term, hard-to-reverse health problems.

In life-or-death situations, the body’s stress response is vital. The chemicals and hormones released during stressful times prime us for fight-or-flight when we’re in a dangerous situation.

Constant stress may lead to like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, depression and other illnesses.

When your life is at risk your heart and respiration rate increases, your muscles tense up and your brain uses more oxygen to increases activity–all to help you survive. However, how often are you actually in a life-or-death situation these days, where this type of response is warranted? Most of us are blessed to live in relatively safe places, where our lives aren’t at risk on a daily basis. So, for example, stressing out over a long line at the grocery store will activate the fight-or-flight response when it’s not needed, and this puts a strain on your body.

Chronic stress lowers your immunity and prevents your digestive, reproductive and excretory systems from functioning well. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, constant stress may lead to serious health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, depression and other illnesses. Not to mention it prevents you from being in your power as an individual.

Stress prevents us from going with the flow in life, being present to what’s happening before us and from having the energy we need in order to accomplish all that we desire.

We can’t talk about stress without talking about cortisol. The so-called “stress hormone” is secreted by the adrenal glands and is involved in the regulation of blood pressure, immune function, glucose metabolism and inflammatory response. During the fight-or-flight response our bodies release high levels of cortisol. In small doses this hormone helps our bodies handle life-or-death scenarios, but higher or more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream can have negative impacts on your health.

The consequences of constantly high-levels of cortisol include: impaired cognitive performance, blood sugar imbalances, decreased bone density, higher blood pressure, lower immunity, and increased abdominal fat. The cherry on top of the stress sundae is with increased abdominal fat comes heart attacks, strokes, metabolic disorders, and higher levels of bad cholesterol.

I’m not saying the goal is to not have stress in your life. We all have it–heck, I’m in the midst of moving to a new place and am more stressed than usual–but, we can change the way we deal with it.

Man smelling an appleAfter you’ve gone through a stressful event or conversation make it your priority to bring your body back to homeostasis. Relax your body by taking several slow, deep breaths, go for a walk, or lay down for a few minutes. Bring your body back to a peaceful place, deliberately.

Now that you have the awareness of how stress impacts your body you may be more inclined to respond to a situation, rather than react to it. Consider thinking carefully about how you use your energy and when you let yourself get stressed. If you feel stress coming on, take a quick break, breathe through it and then return to where you need to be.

Find what works for you and then use that tool to combat the stress in your life so you can start feeling better, looking healthier and living brighter!

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