About stress and the body

We all know too much stress is a bad thing, but most of us have no idea of the actual physical effects it has on our body or, more importantly, how to stop being stressed.

It is worth noting that not all stress is a bad thing, some forms of stress are important and necessary to help us to be alert to the dangers around us and to be able to react quickly and efficiently if we need to. However this type of stress is usually a very short term experience. Our bodies are not designed to cope with long term exposure to the chemicals our bodies produce when we are under any form of stress. In our modern world the external stimuli we are subjected to, on an almost constant basis, means that our bodies remain in an alert state much more than we used to encounter in the past, and it becomes much more difficult for our bodies to return to a relaxed state.

This is an animation from the BBC that explains in a more visual way...

View the video in Youtube here.

So it is incredibly important that our body returns to a relaxed state in order to clear out the stress chemicals and hormones in our body. I will talk about the physical effects these chemicals have on our health and well being a bit more later, but it is also important to understand what we mean by a "relaxed state". People often use other chemicals to try to relax in the form of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Contrary to popular belief, these methods do not allow your body to return to a relaxed state, instead they keep your body in a stressed state and create more problems for your health and physical body. One of the best ways to return your body to a relaxed state actually costs no money, requires no specialist equipment, is remarkably quick and is available to everyone; learning to use your breath is the key to instant, physical relaxation.

So what are the common symptoms of too much exposure to stress? There are 3 main categories of the effects stress can have on your life.

Effects on your body

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches and Migraine
  • Chest tightness of pain
  • Stomach Upset
  • Digestion problems
  • Muscle tension
  • Low immunity
  • Heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • It can worsen the symptoms of many illnesses including asthma, psoriasis and many pulmonary and heart conditions.

Effects on your mood

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Reduction in sex drive
  • Excessive worrying
  • Depression

Effects on your behaviour

  • Over or under eating
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Relationship problems
  • Social withdrawal

There are many simple and easy things we can do to help ourselves and prevent or reverse the effects stress has on our lives and our physical bodies; physical exercise, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding or cutting out tobacco use and excessive caffeine and alcohol intake will all have a positive effect on our stress levels.

It is important to realise that we can make these changes in our lives without it having to cost us anything except our time and energy and it is not difficult to do if you really want to feel better and you will feel the positive effects very quickly.