We all know what stress is. We all also know it’s not good for our bodies to experience stress, but do we really know what ailments we have are directly related to stress? Can we recognize what is stressing us out? Sure there are the stresses of work, and of family, or coping with challenging situations, but then there are those things that eat away at us, little by little, and when compacted over time, we reach a breaking point. With the holidays now officially upon us, it’s important to understand what stress is really doing to our bodies.
Stress is the body’s reaction to what it perceives to be a harmful situation, whether or not it’s real. This reaction is anchored to our core DNA-the “fight or flight” response. Your heart rate increases, your chest tightens, your breathing becomes more rapid and your blood pressure rises. Although these symptoms will ebb and flow, the more often your body experiences it, the less often it can strengthen itself back to normal afterwards.
Stress is not the same for everyone. What is stressful for some may not be an afterthought for others. What some are able to handle without issue, others may breakdown. Not all stress is bad though-remember, there’s the “fight or flight” response; this comes in handy when slamming on the breaks to avoid an accident or fighting off an attacker. Our bodies can handle small doses of stress. It’s the chronic, long-term stress that breaks down our bodies in time.
There are four categories of symptoms, although some are vague, it’s important to take them into consideration. Emotional symptoms include feelings of being overwhelmed, moodiness, loneliness, difficulty relaxing, or feeling as though you’re losing control. Physical symptoms include upset stomach, constipation or diarrhea, chest pain, insomnia, dry mouth, headaches, and cold or sweaty hands and feet.
Cognitive symptoms of stress include inability to focus, forgetfulness, worrying, and racing thoughts. Lastly, behavioral symptoms include changes in appetite, fidgeting, pacing, procrastination, and an increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes.
The consequences of long-term stress include:
- Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
- Obesity and other eating disorders
- Menstrual problems
- Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
- Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
We may not be able to take away the thing that’s causing us stress, but we can certainly take actions to keep those things from effecting our long-term health. Reduce your stress with consistent massage therapy sessions coupled with aromatherapy. There are certain essential oils that will help you process your stress better, and a massage can do wonders for your body as well. Invest in your long-term health; make your appointment today!