Most of us feel stress in one form or another on a daily basis. Sometimes it is simple – getting stuck in traffic. Sometimes it is more serious – having a very high stress job. And other times you feel at your breaking point – the death of a loved one, or even battling an illness yourself – can cause terrible stress.
Stress affects us in so many ways, but it also gradually chips away at our already aging bodies. Environmental, emotional and physical stress can affect us in many different ways.
This week’s focus for Education Month is on how stress affects us and what we can do to combat it, eliminate it and minimize the damage it can do.
Stress can be very broadly defined as any event that threatens homeostasis and causes the body to adapt (Massage & Bodywork, March/April 2014). You may also think of stress as your body’s fight-or-flight response – a full body reaction to any perceived danger. The problem begins when the body cannot tell the difference between a potential, or hypothetical threat, and a genuine attack that needs our immediate response in order to survive.
Stress affects every body system in some way simply because of the many glands and organs that are affected by the autonomic nervous system.
We are affected by stress on a daily basis and over time, chronic stress begins to affect our health.
Here is a brief run down of the body and stress:
- Cardiovascular – stress elevates blood pressure, causes heart disease, angina and hypertension
- Digestive -stress disrupts healthy digestion and can cause irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and gastritis
- Endocrine – stress causes imbalances in powerful hormones that regulate our bodies. The adrenal glands go through stages of fighting stress that can ultimately lead to depression, memory loss, joint pain and panic attacks.
- Skin – your integumentary system can be adversely affected by stress and cause a spike in bouts of eczema, psoriasis and even neurodermatitis which causes severe itching of the skin
- Immune – stress limits your immune and lymphatic systems’ ability to fight off disease and illness. Excessive inflammation, autoimmune disorders and rheumatoid disorders can be exacerbated by increased stress.
- Musculoskeletal – muscle tension is greatly increased as stress increases. This can lead to chronic tension patterns and postural imbalance
- Nervous system – anxiety is the normal response to stress, but prolonged stress can lead to panic attacks, depression and social anxiety disorder
- Reproductive – the flight-or-fight response directly inhibits hormone production and affects reproduction.
- Respiratory – asthma symptoms are worsened in stressful situations
- Urinary – stress can worsen conditions like painful bladder syndrome.
So as you can see, the body takes a huge hit from any form of chronic stress. Our bodies dysfunction then affects our mind and our spirit.
Oxidative stress from the environment and the aging process can also affect the body.
Is stress taking its toll on your body? Schedule an appointment to melt the stress away!