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How Stress Affects Your Body and Mind
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Our entire being is a sublimely complex organism. A delicate machine counting 37.2 trillion cells, working tirelessly and in unison. A colossal factory in the universe, yet invisible to the eye. A thing of wonder. Our cardinal sin? We stopped paying attention and started underpaying the “factory workers.” No rewards. Just inner exploitation. Our relationship with our mind and body is disintegrating. But how? Modern times dictate the exact opposite; they promote self-care, nurture, meditation, healthy diets, and chakra cleansing. So, how could it be? While all of that is true, there is one significant factor we keep disregarding – the sheer intricacy of our world. All the stress, all the triggers, the Jacks-in-the-box. The world is overwhelming. So, what do we do? We suppress and carry on. Repeat. It’s time to think about the repercussions. This is how stress affects your body and mind. 

Is stress really all that bad? 

Yes. And no. While chronic stress can cause utter mayhem, “regular” amounts of stress are essential for day-to-day execution. (we’re not talking about carrying out death sentences, but rather errands, work, and interpersonal relationships) Oddly enough, science says: We need stress, and we need cortisol (stress hormone) to rise and fall throughout the day, so we can wake up, put our clothes on, absorb new information and perform various tasks. During the day, cortisol helps us learn, focus and remember. At night, the stress hormone levels drop, providing us with a good night’s sleep. – that’s the basic formula. Unfortunately, without possessing healthy coping mechanisms, those who accumulate heaps of stress are at risk of suffering from chronic stress, further leading to stress response system disruption. And that’s when problems start knocking at our door. (extremely important if we’re getting ready for pregnancy

Autonomic nervous system 

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is essential in regulating various body functions. To explain, we’ll use the “foot and the pedal” analogy. Say the autonomic nervous system is the accelerator, and our foot is our natural stress response. The more triggers we experience, the more pressure we apply to the accelerator. – We are revving the engine up without ever driving off. Being a part of our nervous system, ANS automatically regulates our body functions as a response to a situation but cleverly adapts the command it sends by using our perception’s feedback. There are two vital parts – the sympathetic “fight-or-flight” system and the parasympathetic “rest and digest” system. The stress build-up causes the “fight-or-flight” system to dominate the “rest and digest” and prevent it from naturally activating, keeping us in a constant state of alarm. 

Common stress effects 

Stress affects your body and mind. In fact, it encompasses all parts of our existence; it affects our body, behavior, thoughts, and emotions. Recognizing the “vulnerable departments” and symptoms is necessary for preventing any potential damage in the future. 

Body symptoms 

  • fatigue 
  • muscle tension 
  • chest pain 
  • increased heart rate 
  • insomnia 
  • low sex drive 
  • gastrointestinal problems 
  • headaches 
  • unexplained pains 

Mind symptoms 

  • anxiety 
  • depression 
  • irritability 
  • anger 
  • restlessness 
  • sadness 
  • lack of focus 
  • state of overwhelm 
  • substance abuse 
  • social isolation 
  • eating disorders 

We give our stress indicators a nonchalant wave and look the other way. The morning shakiness, the late-night headaches, our ever-racing hearts. When our friends, co-workers, and family members ask: “Are you feeling okay?” we respond: “Oh, yes. Definitely. It’s nothing, really. I’m just tired, that’s all.” – Is it? We make life-altering decisions without blinking, only to find the boomerang effect racing toward us and screaming: OFF WITH YOUR HEAD! The perks of accumulated stress. Moving house is among the top 5 stress triggers. Instead of suppressing the notion of the impending stress hailstorm, we should try to prevent it by learning how to lessen moving stress factors. “Prevention is better than cure” – you know the old saying. 

The chronic stress factors 

No two are ever the same. Unfortunately for us, there are no common denominators in the game of stress. The risk formula is not ubiquitous. We are born with different levels of stress tolerance. The bigger the “bucket”, the higher the tolerance. Its nature is predetermined by our genes, personality, and our life experiences. It’s fair to say – it’s a lottery. For instance, some people experience immense joy and contentment when performing publicly, whereas other individuals experience paralyzing stage fright. The “Armageddon” scenario is explicitly subjective, and triggers are innumerable. 

Immune system 

It can go either way; stress can either stimulate our immune system to build the necessary resilience or – rub it up the wrong way, and you’ll suffer the consequences. The beneficial stimulation helps our body prevent any health marauders (viral, bacterial infections) from ravaging our immune system. On the other hand, chronic stress (perpetual fight-or-flight mode) will inevitably falter under the weight of the accumulation, making way for the immune system raiders to feast on healthy cells. People suffering from chronic stress are more prone to catching the seasonal flu (4 seasons, and not the hotel). Moving specialists from NYC Mini Storage share: “A healthy number of our clients experience flu-like symptoms when moving house.” Evidence enough? 

Act now 

What are we waiting for? The stress will not vanish into thin air on its own; it needs our help. We need to address it by choosing our weapon of choice. (i.e., healthy coping strategies) 

  • healthy amounts of sleep (7-8 hours) 
  • regular physical activity 
  • reconnecting with the ones we care about 
  • practicing meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, massage 
  • talking to a therapist 
  • joining support groups 
  • fighting stress with humor 
  • hobby revival: music, books, painting, etc. 

The key to ending the vicious cycle is to stop feeding the source. Practicing self-awareness can help us understand our triggers in much more detail. And, no matter how busy our schedule is, we must remind ourselves daily: downtime leads to up times

Closing thoughts 

Yes, stress affects your body and mind, but no relationship is a one-way street. Time to turn the tables. And remember: it’s not just major stressors we need to be worried about; minor troubles are just as dangerous. Start loving yourself today.