Stress is part of life, in small and large amounts. Everyday hassles and small irritations such as traffic jams, long lines and arguing with a spouse or child can quickly add up to be as stressful as life’s obvious major stresses like loss of job, death, moving or divorce.
What is stress anyway?
Stress is a body’s natural reaction to situations or demands that disrupt the rhythm or balance of what we consider normal daily lives. When we’re in stressful situations, adrenal glands secrete special hormones that prepare us to handle stress by speeding up the heart rate, constricting blood vessels to the gut while enlarging the muscles, and stimulating the liver to release its glucose stores for quick energy.
Problems with stress occur when the brain fails to give the “all clear” signal and you neglect alerts that your body is sending you. If the alarm state lasts too long, you begin to suffer the consequences of chronic stress. Unrelieved stress can lead to many health problems including hypertension, heart disease, obesity, diabetes or even thoughts of suicide.
Stress affects everyone differently. Its impact can affects many parts of the body and may result in a multitude of symptoms that people often experience daily. Some of the warning signs of stress may include:
- Headaches, muscle tension
- Neck or back pain
- Upset stomach or indigestion
- Dry mouth
- Chest pains or a rapid heartbeat
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of hopelessness or irritability
- Isolation or withdrawal from others
- Loss of appetite or overeating
Sometimes stress can trigger increased smoking, use of alcohol and drugs, poor job performance or poor hygiene.
Recognizing what triggers stress and how you deal with it is your first step toward ensuring a healthier future.