From procrastination at work and school, to maintaining a positive reputation, planning an upcoming event, or even fussing over spilled coffee; we’ve all experienced some form of psychological stress (and will likely continue to do so throughout our lives, it’s pretty inevitable at times).
Think of the feelings you get, both physically and mentally, with stress as your shadow. It doesn’t feel too great, does it? You have that feeling of impending doom and exhaustion welling up in your throat, and sleeping off the stresses of life just seems like the best option (let’s be real, sleep is always the go-to option for any situation).
Aside from the typical frustration accompanied with being stressed, have you ever considered what is actually happening to your body on a chemical level that causes further physical and mental stress? A recent TED Talk dove into Arresting and Busting Stress, from the small physical changes to the emotional toll it can take along the way. Here’s what we learned after hearing various TED Talks on stress and the body, as well as doing some additional research:
70 percent of doctor visits and 80 percent of serious illnesses may be linked to stress.
Prolonged stress can lead to mental illnesses, depression, and a lower life expectancy. But…the good news is there are so many different stress relief techniques you can use every day. Yoga, healthy eating, sleep, jogging, music…there are so many options for relieving stress.
Adrenaline (as a result of impending danger), if sustained for long periods of time, can be detrimental to your health.
All of the chemical reactions in your body, from a hormonal chemical release to your brain to a signal from adrenal glands, can really take a toll on everyday function if you aren’t in any immediate danger.
Ever notice how much you eat when you stress?
Your body releases the stress hormone cortisol when you find yourself in a stressful situation. Scientists have linked cortisol to craving sugar and fatty foods when you are stressed. Makes sense now that you think about it, right? If you even sense oncoming stress in the near or distant future, stock up on those healthy snacks. Trade your munchies for carrot sticks, a smoothie, or some apples and peanut butter. Same hunger satisfaction but with a healthier result.
Or how little you sleep?
If you’re stressing out regularly, it can really mess with your sleep schedule. Staying up at all hours of the night downing caffeinated drinks and trying to get things done on that never-ending checklist will only allow adrenaline to overtake your body. You’ll be awake for days before actually getting a good night’s sleep, right?
Or how much weight you gain or lose during times of stress?
Correlating stress with weight gain makes sense after what we’ve gone over regarding cortisol and cravings for those sweet and salty treats. But what about weight loss? While it can be a sign of serious illness or an eating disorder, studies show that it is normal to notice weight loss after a stressful situation such as divorce, termination from a job, college (financial) woes, or dealing with a grieving period. Your time is consumed with mental anxiety over such events that often times, you may forget to grab that quick lunch or cook dinner. Most of that time is spent alone, sleeping, or making arrangements to get by with the sudden change in day-to-day routine.
And while we don’t necessarily have to worry about this in our early 20s, stress can stimulate heart problems if prolonged.
A recent study in Europe (of 200k people) showed that people with very stressful jobs are more likely to have a heart attack first than people with less job-related stress. Combat stress as soon as it hits, and don’t let it drag on. Prolong your heart health!
Let’s not forget those pesky headaches.
Monday migraines are a mother. I know so many people who get headaches (in excess) every Monday because of the stress of the upcoming week. Tension headaches resulting from stress/adrenaline make your muscles tense. (No, ice does not make that go away). Try a bath bomb in the tub or a heated/scented therapy pillow to relieve those Monday blues. Create a Monday habit that will swing you into the week the right way!
Surprisingly enough, the list goes on. There are so many ways that stress, whether short or long term, can affect our health on a regular basis. The good news is that combating stress is as simple as taking that five to ten minutes to focus on YOU. While certain things require more attention and result in more stress than others, it’s nothing to risk your health and shorten your earthly days over. Embrace the stress in a positive way, be active, and stay organized. You’ll be surprised what a few healthy routine changes can do over a few weeks’ time.