The Effects of Stress on the Body
The human body is an incredible, complex entity designed to perform a wide range of functions. As complicated and capable as it is, plenty can disrupt its functions. One of these things is chronic stress. Stress is the state the body goes into when faced with perceived threats. Over time, the effects of stress throughout the body can become more and more pronounced.
When your body experiences stress, your heart rate increases as your body’s demand for oxygen grows. This increased blood pressure and extra strain on the heart makes the body more prone to heart attack, heart disease, and stroke. The body also produces a stress hormone called cortisol, which helps with rapid tissue repair but also increases blood sugar levels. This is especially important to consider for people who already struggle with diabetes.
As far as appetite goes, stress can have two effects. Cortisol can make the body crave sugary or fatty foods to give your body the energy to fight the perceived threat—hence, stress eating. You may also lose your appetite as the demand on other body systems increases and attention turns away from the digestive system. For this same reason, the body may not absorb the food consumed as efficiently, leading to constipation or diarrhea. The body may also experience nausea and bloating when you’re stressed.
Another system that experiences reduced functions during stress is the immune system. When you’re stressed, the body produces a hormone that reduces the number of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. This affects the effectiveness of the immune system, leaving the body more prone to illness.
As part of the “fight-or-flight” reaction, the muscles in the body tense up, ready to fight the perceived threat. The continued tension can lead to muscle pain and spasms, and muscles may be more prone to injury. Prolonged muscle tension can also trigger tension headaches and migraines in the body.
Fighting the “Fight or Flight”
With all the effects of stress on the body, managing your stress levels is incredibly important. Along with tending to the emotional ravages of stress, such as acknowledging and managing your stressors, you also need to tend to the physical effects. Healthy habits such as eating right and exercising can assuage stress as well as counteract its negative physical effects. Massage therapy is also an incredibly effective way to reduce stress and soothe muscle tension in all parts of the body. Massage chairs are the go-to for fighting this tension, but don’t underestimate the benefits of a foot massage to reduce stress, such as those offered by the iComfort Foot Massager, which you can find right here at Relaxacare.