‘The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another’.
William James - American Philosopher
For many generations people suffering from intense stress were considered in danger of having nervous breakdowns and other mental illnesses.
Now we know something else about stress.
If you endure it unrelentingly, sooner or later your body will start to feel the effects. One of the first signs is that you will start to gain weight. Secondary signs include a gradual weakening of your system and related health problems.
In short, if you endure more stress than you can reasonably handle, sooner or later your body will demand relief by breaking in some way that changes you and forces you to stop and pay attention.
You do not want things to get that far out of hand. Let’s look at some of the bad things stress does to your body.
A 2010 study at the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine linked everyday stress with overeating and weight gain.The study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, was fascinating in that it looked at rats put through the equivalent of daily stress in humans and then observed how it impacted their eating habits.
Like humans in wartime or in the first days following traumatic grief, the rats ate very little when their normal living pattern was altered at first. But then, as they tried to get used to the stresses of their new life patterns, they started to eat more and their body weight increased.
When their stress declined, they were still eating fewer meals less frequently, and they still gained weight, leaving the scientists to conclude that when you overeat to get through prolonged stress, it makes long-term, harmful changes to your body’s metabolic rate.
Other physical symptoms of too much stress
Stress symptoms have also been found to contribute to physical results in your body such as headaches, muscle pain, chest pain, excessive fatigue, change in sex drive, upset stomach and disrupted sleep.
Stress can mess up your motivation, make you sad or depressed or angry and irritable and unduly anxious. It makes you eat more, smoke more, abuse drugs and withdraw from normal social interactions.
Officials at the Mayo Clinic in the USA, note that stress has also been linked to heart attacks and strokes, hypertension, disorders of the immune system, susceptibility to viral disorders like colds and flus.
The American Institute of Stress looked at the impact of stress on all your key body systems, and the results are sobering.
When you are really stressed, for example, your nervous system adopts a “fight or flight” stance. The adrenal glands are stimulated to release adrenaline and cortisol, hormones that cause your blood pressure to go up, your heart to beat rapidly, your glucose level to increase in your bloodstream and your digestive process to slow down. This is a normal reaction to stress. It is important to try to avoid having the body in this state for long continued periods.
Your respiratory system is impacted as well. You breathe harder and more rapidly than under normal conditions.
Your muscles tense and your whole musculoskeletal system is impacted. When your muscles contract for a long period of stressful time, it triggers headaches, among other conditions.
Chronic stress can actually cause impotence and reduced sexual desire. It impairs testosterone and sperm production in men and prompts missed or irregular menstrual cycles in women as well as reduced sexual interest.
Three other bodily systems are heavily impacted negatively by prolonged, continuous stress: the gastrointestinal system, the cardiovascular system, and the endocrine system.
Your stomach, bowels and esophagus in your gastrointestinal system all pay a high price for prolonged stress. Severe stress can actually make you sick to your stomach or leave you with a feeling of nausea. In your bowels, stress plays with the nutrients absorbed in your intestines and dictates how quickly the food moves through your system. Diarrhea or constipation can be caused by these irregularities.
However, some stress is good. Without it, we could not function.