The Consequences of Stress
We’ve all had it…. Stress.
Stress is a natural and necessary part of life. It can motivate and challenge us to achieve our goals, but when stress becomes chronic, it can have a devastating effect on our physical and mental health.
Prolonged stress can lead to a range of health problems, including increased risk of heart disease, digestive disorders, weakened immune system, and musculoskeletal problems. As health professionals, it is important to understand the detrimental effects of prolonged stress on the body and how to help patients manage their stress levels.
One of the most common physical effects of prolonged stress is muscle tension. When we experience stress, our bodies release the hormone cortisol, which triggers the “fight or flight” response. This response is designed to protect us from danger by increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. However, when stress becomes chronic, our muscles can become constantly tense, leading to a range of musculoskeletal problems such as tension headaches, neck and back pain, and even joint pain.
Chronic stress can also affect the digestive system. When we experience stress, blood is diverted away from the digestive system and towards the muscles, heart, and lungs. This can cause a range of digestive problems such as acid reflux, bloating, constipation, and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The immune system can also be affected by prolonged stress. Cortisol can suppress the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and illnesses. Research has shown that chronic stress can increase the risk of conditions such as colds, flu, and even autoimmune diseases.
Finally, prolonged stress can increase the risk of heart disease. Stress can cause the blood vessels to constrict, leading to increased blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, this can damage the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
It is important to help patients manage their stress levels. This can include techniques such as relaxation exercises, meditation, yoga, and other forms of exercise. It is also important to address any underlying musculoskeletal problems that may be caused by prolonged stress. This can include exercises to strengthen weak muscles, stretches to alleviate tension, and massage therapy to relieve muscle pain. Make sure to speak to your Naturopathic Doctor on ways to manage your overall stress levels. You would also benefit from regular Massage Therapy which has been shown to reduce stress levels.
Also See; How to get better sleep
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). 5 Things You Should Know About Stress.
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Understanding the stress response.
- American Psychological Association. (2017). Chronic stress and the body’s response.
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2021). Relaxation Techniques for Health: An Introduction.