By Fisayo Aturamu
Stress And Your Health
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.
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.
Sometimes you may be stressed and not even know it.
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.
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’.
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 stored 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) predisposing them to weight gain; others may skip meals and lose weight.
Cardiovascular effects: The stress hormones cause tightening of blood vessels thus, increasing blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Changes in sleep pattern: Stress makes it harder 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: Stress decreases libido causing sexual dissatisfaction.
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 aging: The summation of the effects of chronic stress on the human body causes early aging.
Dealing successfully with stress
Here are 6 ways to manage stress; with a useful memory aide to cue you in to what to do when you feel stressed:
S - Sleep
T - Time
R - Relaxation
E - Eat Healthy
S - Sights and Sounds
S - Socialise
S – Sleep
It is essential to get enough rest and at least six hours of sleep daily to ensure perfect well-being.
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 healthy
It is important to eat healthy and balanced meals. Fruits and vegetables are essential for a good health and should be incorporated into every meal.
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.
‘Bad stress’ affects health. It affects physical, mental and social well-being. The elements of the memory aide recommended for the management of stress can prevent the harmful impact on your body leaving you free to achieve more out of life.
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
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