Let's look at short term effects of stress (Stick with me through the technical physiological talk for a minute!): Stress causes your autonomic nervous system (ANS) to react in a variety of ways. The two branches of the ANS, the parasympathetic and the sympathetic, have opposite effects on your body, which in healthy circumstances balance each other out.
Everybody has hear of your “flight or fight” reaction when presented with a stressful situation. Little did you know that when you are presented with a stressful situation, through your ANS your body produces corticoids to help acquire energy from your body and adrenaline to heighten your bodies responses. This physiological response causes:
- Heart rate increases and heart increases its strength of contraction to pump more blood
- Blood pressure rises
- Digestion slows so the much needed blood may be diverted to muscles
- Salivation and mucous secretion decreases - the result is a "cotton mouth" feeling
- Pupils dilate so that you have a more sensitive vision
- All of your senses - sight, hearing, smell, and taste - become more acute, ready to identify any threat
- Sweating increases to flush waste and to cool down the body
This is why some people work better in stressful situations! Because their body is primed and ready for action, like writing a paper the night before it's due or nailing an interview!
In a person who is at a healthy stress level, after their sympathetic ANS has taken action, their parasympathetic ANS kicks in causing them to relax by decreasing heart rate and relaxing blood vessels. It's a God given neutralizer to balance your bodies natural responses!
When a person is experiencing a constant high level of stress, their sympathetic ANS is always in drive, causing them to be unable to relax. When your parasympathetic ANS is unable to take control you begin to experience high levels of stress and your body loses the ability to relax in-between these periods.
With unhealthy levels of stress, stress becomes “distress.” As distress related tension begins to build, your body can develop a variety of negative side-effects.
A recent study showed that “43% of adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.” Yikes, thats a lot of people! So what are these negative side effects? Lets take a look!
As shown above, too much stress can impact your body causing:
- Muscle Pain
- Chest Pain
- Stomach Problems
- Sleep Problems
- Lowered Immune System
Stress can also negatively impact your mood by causing:
- Lack of Focus
Stress can also change impact your behavior causing:
- Under eating
- Anger Issues
- Drug and Alcohol Abuse
As you can see your body is primed to respond to stress, but if your body is stressed too often and unable to relax, you can cause permanent negative effects on your body. So take the time to relax so your body can work properly. Being a Type A person, relaxing can be difficult for me, and is more of learned skill than a natural occurrence. However, over time I have learned the importance of taking time to have fun and relax.
So here is me telling you to take time to relax and let your body destress before it becomes distressed. Because I don't know about you, but I definitely don't need any more stress in my not so normal life!