Stress can be useful at times, and everyone experiences it to some degree. Parents stress about their children, students stress about exams and so on. However, too much stress can have serious consequences for your health.
The physiological effects of stress are well documented in the scientific literature. In the short term, it can affect cognitive judgement and ruin one’s day. However, it’s the long-term effects of stress that really take a toll. There are several ways that your body reacts to stress. Inflammation is one of the body’s responses to stress. The vascular and respiratory systems are kicked into high gear. Lungs start working harder to provide oxygen, and this can worsen symptoms of asthma. Blood pressure rises, which increases the likelihood of having a stroke or heart attack. The liver produces more glucose in an attempt to provide more energy. This increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Stress can cause you to ache. All of these effects take a toll on your body, and that will cause your immune system to be weakened.
Excessive stress can also be related to more serious mental health concerns. Studies have shown that increased levels of cortisol are associated with issues like depression and anxiety. It has been demonstrated that extended exposure to cortisol causes brain cells to die and the brain itself to shrink. It also increases inflammation, which may play a serious role in clinical depression. Prolonged periods of stress release hormones that cause negative effects on mood and sleep. This contributes to the development and worsening of mental health disorders.
The cause of your stress must first be identified. It could be related to work, school or a litany of other contributing factors. Once the source of stress is identified, steps must be taken to release the burdens weighing on your mind. Physical activities are a great way to manage stress. This could include sports, exercise or an outdoor hobby. You could also try yoga, meditation or getting in touch with nature. Everyone is going to have different sources of stress, and the path to managing that stress will vary from one individual to another. The important thing is taking steps to alleviate it.
If you believe that your stress symptoms are related to larger mental health issues, you need to seek professional help. This can both assist you with stress management and address the underlying causes so you can reduce the amount of stress in your life.