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How stress affects your body
March 5, 2014
Kin Wai Wu, MSPT
Oh no! I am 30 minutes late for my conference meeting! I forgot to set my alarm clock the night before…shame on me! I don’t have much appetite for my breakfast and my pounding headache has just arrived! Sounds familiar?Stress could be a great motivation to propel people forward, but too much could destroy you.
So, what is stress? Stress is defined as a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes physical or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. Of course, stress comes in different shapes and sizes. Stress such as Eustress is good for you. It turns the stressors into challenges like bombing down the hill on your snowboard, or closing a deal in your business. Some stresses are temporary (Acute Stress) like people cutting you off on the freeway or a dog barking at you unexpectedly. The last category called Chronic Stress, the kind of stress that seems to last for eternity. Things like having a mean boss or a messy marriage. Chronic Stress could potentially damage your mind, body, and soul!
When you perceive a threat, your body will turn on your Fight or Flight response. This response will help you to face the problem or run away from it. The Sympathetic Nervous System in your body would ramp up the stress Hormones like Adrenalin and cortisol. It speeds up your heart rate, pumps up your muscles, and slows down your digestion (You don’t have the mood to eat a cheeseburger when a Cheetah is chasing you!!) This mechanism works perfectly in a short run, however, people who suffer from Chronic Stress are unable to ramp down the Fight or Flight response.Increased heart rate and blood flow over prolonged periods will increase muscle tension causing body aches and muscle spasms. That is why headaches are a first sign of chronic stress. Also, the overloading of the vascular system could result in heart disease. Since this response puts the brakes on your digestive tract, it affects your nutrient absorption. Your immune system will be diminished and it slows down your body’s recovery. It’s like a vicious cycle that spirals downward!
You want to relax? Guess what? I’ve got some tips for you. There are many relaxation techniques such as meditation and a yoga practice. These are effective weapons against stress. If you don’t have time to do this, just take a walk 20-30 minutes daily and keep your mind in peace for a moment. Seek a counselor if you are having long term financial or marriage issues. Consulting a health professional could help you making a healthier lifestyle decision.