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Effects of Stress and Six Proven Ways To Overcome Them

Article Contributed By Fisayo Aturamu; Updated December 2021.

Have you considered this question - what are the effects of stress on your health, work and family?

When people say they are healthy, they often refer to the absence of an illness.

According to the World Health Organisation, ‘health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

Stress can have a significant impact on your health. But how? In this article, I want to show you some ways stress can affect you. In addition, you will see how to overcome some of the negative effects of stress.


Worried looking lady holding her fingertips to sides of the head showing ffects of stress

Stress and Your Health

How often you are stressed can determine the overall state of your well-being. Stress is the body’s reaction to change.

The body’s response may occur physically, mentally or emotionally.

Stress is a normal part of life and how we manage it is very crucial to our health.

We typically associate stress with negative occurrences but positive events like a promotion at work or the birth of a child can also be stressful.


How the Effects of Stress Develop

 Sometimes you may be stressed and not even know it. This is because a lot of factors cause stress. The physical, mental and emotional effects of stress on health manifests differently in individuals. Therefore, we should pay better attention to our bodies.

The human body has a system that is built to respond to stress.

This system is what causes the physiological changes in a bid to combat and arrest stressful situations.

The systematic response is known as the ‘fight or flight response’ which becomes activated continuously during prolonged periods of stress.

Three biological chemicals (Adrenaline, Norepinephrine and Cortisol) tagged ‘stress hormones’ produce a series of physiological changes in the body during stress which can be good or bad.

While the focus of this article is on the bad effects of prolonged and unrelieved stress, it is good to mention some of the good effects of ‘small doses’ of stress.

How a 'Little' Stress Can Be Good For You

Based on available scientific evidence, some of the good effects of stress are:

  • Increased motivation
  • Memory boost and focus on tasks to achieve set targets and goal
  • Warning and alert to potential danger for quick remedial action
  • Protection against infection and to aid recovery from illness

We should however be more attentive to the ‘bad stress’.

Graphic with tips to manage the effects of stress on the body

Negative Ways Stress Can Affect You

Some of the 'negative' effects of stress on health are:

Headaches: these are ‘tension headaches’ and often cause a feeling of tightness around the forehead and neck.

Weight changes: Contrary to popular beliefs, stress also causes weight gain. This is because of Cortisol which increases the amount of fat your body stores in the abdomen.

Change in appetite: While some people tend to binge eat (i.e. consume large quantities of food in a small amount of time) making them likely to gain weight; others may skip meals and lose weight.

Cardiovascular effects: Stress hormones your body makes can cause some of your blood vessels to tighten and narrow. The effect of this change means your blood pressure may increase, and the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Changes in sleep pattern: Stress makes it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Effects of mental health: Stress causes a low concentration span and lack of motivation. It can also lead to depression and constant irritability which may cause anxiety.

Change in sex drive: If you are wondering about changes to your sex drive you should know - stress reduces libido causing sexual dissatisfaction. Watch here to learn more factors that may cause low sex drive.

Increased risk of engaging in unhealthy behaviours: Like eating junk food, excessive drinking of alcohol and illicit drug use.

Skin problems: Stress causes increased oil production by the skin, therefore, causing clogged pores; this eventually gives rise to skin problems like acne, etc.

Accelerated ageing: The long term effects of chronic stress on the human body may cause you to age faster than you expect.

Succesfully Overcoming The Negative Effects of Stress

Here are 6 ways to manage stress; with a useful memory aide to cue you into what to do when you feel stressed:

S - Sleep

T - Time

R - Relaxation

E - Eat Healthy

S - Sights and Sounds

S - Socialise

Physical effects of stress

Let's see how each of these can relieve the effects of stress on the body

S – Sleep

It is essential to get enough rest and at least six hours of sleep daily to ensure perfect well-being.

The effects of poor sleep affect you physically and mentally. Irritability, poor thinking, excess tiredness, and weight gain are just a few. Check out this article to help improve your sleeping patterns.

T – Time

Learn to manage your time. It is easy to get frustrated when you have a lot to do in just 24 hours. Planning your day by making a to-do list based on how important and urgent things are will help you achieve more daily.

R – Relaxation

Always take time off to relax. Join a gym or a yoga class. Set some time aside during your leisure for hobbies. Do things that make you happy. Exercise is a good stress reliever. Start small by taking a 15-30 minute walk around your neighbourhood or start your day with a 30 minutes jog.

Lots of research has proven that engaging in activities such as regular exercise, sex, laughing, listening to music that you love makes the body release endorphins which are ‘feel-good’ chemicals that are natural pain and stress relievers.

E – Eat healthily

It is important to eat healthy and balanced meals. Fruits and vegetables are essential for good health and you should add them into every meal as often as you can. Cut out processed and refined sugars from your diet.

S – Sights and Sounds

Surround yourself with things that generate positive emotions like pictures of loved ones, etc. Get a pet or a plant, watching something that you love, grow brings joy and satisfaction. Create a playlist of your favourite music to play while you are stuck in traffic or doing household chores.

S - Socialise

Socialise with others. Build healthy relationships outside work, school, etc. Go out with friends often. Keep toxic people out of your life.


Conclusion

‘Bad stress’ affects health. It affects physical, mental and social well-being. Make sure you learn our S-T-R-E-S-S aide to help you overcome the negative effects of stress.

I promise, this will help prevent the harmful impact on your body leaving you free to achieve more out of life.

Stay Well.

More Reading

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through info@askawayhealth.org

Image Credits: Canva



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