Your body is designed to handle small amounts of stress. You are a well-constructed machine with the capability to overcome most anything that happens to you on a regular day. But what happens when you’re not having a regular day or, as this pandemic marches on, you can’t even remember a regular day?
Let’s take a look at how stress affects your body and what that means for you.
The Anatomy of Stress
A stressed body feels like a body under pressure. When you’re feeling stressed, you aren’t at your most effective. From the top of your head to the tips of your toes, each part of your holistic being responds to the chain reaction of stress. Every system of your body is affected.
What Does a Stressed Body Feel Like?
Like many things, stress is, unfortunately, a holistic experience. You feel it in your core and every vital system to your survival. Let’s look at each of our primary systems, how stress impacts their function, and the way you experience its effect.
Muscles and Bones
When stress begins to rise in your body, your muscles coil and prepare for the impact ahead. Carrying around the tension of that preparation can lead to cramping and extraneous pressure on your skeletal system. The way you carry yourself changes to accommodate the tight muscles caused by stress.
Stress destabilizes the pace you bring air into your lungs. When your breathing is rapid, your body struggles to keep up with supplying those important tissues with oxygen. This may feel like shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, or even trigger asthma attacks in vulnerable people.
Much like your breathing, your pulse picks up when you’re feeling the pressure of the world around you. Stress causes a hiccup in the coordination between the flow of nutrient-rich blood from your heart to your body. Over time, it can cause chronic inflammation in your arteries.
Your body recognizes stress by its hormone signature. Most famously, cortisol levels are associated with both your stress response as well as your kidney function and energy levels. There are other hormones that interact with your stress levels though. Adrenaline, glucose, and even testosterone levels are all responsive to the stress you experience.
Stress can keep you awake at night, pondering the worries and woes you didn’t have time to worry about in your waking hours. Stress-induced insomnia affects your circadian rhythm and can make it feel impossible to let your body relax enough to find rest.
Skin and Hair
Stress can make skin and hair feel dull and temperamental. From flaring existing skin conditions to causing hair loss, there’s no shortage of the way stress can impact some of your most visible body systems.
Also called the gut-brain connection, your digestive system is undeniably linked to the things you think and feel. It’s no wonder that stress can cause all manner of gut discomfort. Gas, constipation, and heartburn are some of the most commonly reported impacts of stress on the stomach.
With stress playing havoc on hormonal systems, it’s no surprise to find that it also may impact your reproductive system. From desire to menstruation, there may be a change in the familiar patterns of your body when you’re stressed.
When your body is battling your stress levels, it’s a whole lot harder to fight off intruding germs and bugs. Your immune system feels the strain and it exhibits a weakened response to the outside world that can make you sick.
Can stress cause long-term damage?
Stress shouldn’t be left unmanaged or without holistic care, it needs to alleviate the fight-or-flight intensity of it. Over time, the reactions your body experiences due to stress can wear on you. Long-term stress can lead to serious diseases of important bodily systems.
Chronic stress can cause or contribute to a number of disorders. From direct correlation to a waterfall effect, there is evidence that it can also contribute to the development of substance use disorders.
It’s possible to be addicted to stress too
For some, stress is something that drives the desire to numb that often precedes substance use. For others though, stress can be an addiction all its own. If all you know is adrenaline-laced intensity, relaxation may feel unsafe to your body. Stress addiction stands apart from substance use recovery but many of the treatments can overlap in how they engage your body to begin rewriting your healing.
Identifying the cause of your stress and the effects you feel from it in your daily life can be a powerful tool to stop it in its tracks. Through a sustainable and consistent routine, you can develop the tools to reduce your stress alongside your road to recovery today. At Villa Kali Ma, we offer programs to help our clients combat the effects of stress on a holistic level. Connect with us today to learn more about how we help our clients heal and manage stress.