Stress could be wreaking havoc on your body, and you probably don’t even realise it. Stress is such a common occurrence in today’s day, but most people tend to overlook it as a serious health concern. Have you, a loved one, or a co-worker seemed particularly out of sorts but brushed it off with an “it’s just stress” response? Unfortunately, most people will sweep stress under the rug, however doing so can lead to some serious consequences for their physical and mental health.
In less serious cases, stress can have an adverse effect on mood and performance and in its worst form, stress can culminate in life-threatening conditions such as a heart attack or a stroke. That is why it’s so important to keep an eye on ourselves and those around us and make sure we’re staying on top of our stress levels, so they don’t spiral out of control. For what may seem like a slight inconvenience now, it isn’t worth ignoring until it becomes a serious situation.
Stress and the body
Stress has been linked to an alarming number of conditions from small inconveniences to life-threatening. With modern science showing no bounds, we are continuously linking more and more conditions together. And so many of them start with stress. Now we have the science and technology to understand our bodies in new ways, it’s now more important than ever to check in with ourselves and make sure we aren’t overdoing it and to recognise when we’re not feeling quite right. Putting the brakes on stress quickly can have a huge impact further down the line, you might even be saving your life.
Has someone you know suffered a heart attack or a stroke that seemed to come from out of the blue? Whilst in some instances these horrible instances can occur, chances are there were a few tell-tale signs grumbling under the surface. Knowing the impact stress can have on the body is vital to picking up the early signs before it is too late. Have a look at this fantastic table from the Mayo Clinic pinpointing the effect stress can have on your body, your mood, and your behaviour, so you know exactly what to look for.
|On your body||On your mood||On your behaviour|
|Headache||Anxiety||Over or under eating|
|Muscle tension or pain||Restlessness||Angry outbursts|
|Chest pain||Lack of motivation or focus||Drug or alcohol misuse|
|Fatigue||Feeling overwhelmed||Tobacco use|
|Change in sex drive||Irritability or anger||Social withdrawal|
|Stomach upset||Sadness or depression||Exercising less|
Stress is not something you want to be sweeping under the rug for another day, it accumulates over time, even when you don’t realise it, and can result in some horrible and life-altering conditions. In most cases, stress is either the root cause or a contributing factor to a myriad of conditions, chances are if you look back, stress will be lurking there somewhere.
Elevated stress levels over time have been directly related to:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Digestive problems
- Anxiety and depression
Elevated stress levels over time have been linked to conditions such as:
- Stomach pain
- Chest pain
- Anxiety and depression
Just because you can’t see stress and its symptoms doesn’t mean you should ignore them, or pretend they aren’t serious. You wouldn’t ignore a gaping wound and you’re more than likely going to treat it with care to ensure it doesn’t get infected and spread around your body. So why are we still ignoring stress?
How to manage your stress levels
Now that you know the signs to look out for, it’s important to act when you see them. Managing your stress levels from the beginning can help to minimise or eliminate the adverse effects of elevated stress on your body.
Firstly, you need to identify what is causing you to feel stressed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your job, family commitments, a relationship, or a host of things pulling you in different directions, you can’t fix the symptoms without identifying the root cause. Often when we feel our lives running away with us, it can be overwhelming and suffocating, and cause a spike in stress levels. Taking control of your life is an empowering act and the first step to alleviating stress.
Secondly, prioritising some ‘me time’ is a necessity to relax and reduce stress. Taking some time to step away from the laptop or just be present with yourself can be a positive step in the right direction. Incorporating time into your busy schedule to do some things you enjoy can instantly lower your stress levels and give you space to you regroup. ‘Me time’ can be anything from playing sports, reading a book, socialising with friends, going to the gym, or simply sitting and doing blissful nothing.
Make sure you’re avoiding any unhealthy habits threatening to bring you down, like excessive alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco use. All of these products contain chemicals or ingredients that reverse what we’re trying to achieve here and actually cause a spike in the stress hormone, cortisol. Focusing on a healthy diet to ensure your body is supported with sufficient vitamins and nutrients, alongside an active lifestyle and a good sleep cycle are the best ways to combat stress and maintain a healthy wellbeing.
Another healthy habit to reduce the impact of stress on your health is planning and sticking to a schedule. Organise your day and plan your tasks on level of importance, so the most critical stuff is out of the way first and isn’t hanging over your head. Be mindful of how much you are putting on your plate, overloading your task list is only going to lead to overwhelm and raise those stress levels again. Accepting that you don’t have time for everything is the key to taking ownership of your life and combatting unnecessary stress. Remember, work smarter, not harder.
Here at Morale, we’re as serious as a heart attack about your health. If you are concerned about someone in your network that is under a lot of pressure at the moment, why not send them a positive affirmation or two? Each day you can anonymously send out a few words of support and encouragement to those who need it. Just a few kind words can help to alleviate stress and reduce its long-term impact. You never know, you might just be saving their life!
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Got any wise words of wisdom for us? Drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us hear them.