HealthLatest News

The Impact of Stress on Your Body: Effective Ways to Prevent Its Adverse Health Effects

Are you feeling overwhelmed by stress? You’re not alone. According to a survey, a majority of UK residents—56%, to be precise—have experienced stress that significantly impacted their lives in the past year. This strain has been influenced by various factors, such as the rising cost of living, global events, and lingering health concerns post-pandemic.

Stress has become a leading cause of extended sick leave in workplaces, as noted by the Health and Safety Executive. In the UK alone, it contributed to over 17 million lost working days in 2021/22, accounting for a staggering 51% of all work-related illnesses during that period.

Former Environment Minister Therese Coffey recently shared her harrowing experience with stress. She revealed how extreme stress during her government tenure led to a brain abscess, a situation she described as nearly fatal. Hospitalized for a month in 2018, she realized the toll stress took on her health, vowing to prioritize living in the present after resigning from her post last month. Her story highlights the detrimental effects of stress, urging others to take heed and prioritize their well-being.

Why’s stress becoming such a big deal? According to Professor Neil Greenberg from King’s College London, people are more open about stress nowadays. He reckons the internet, misinformation, and social isolation add to our stress levels. With the constant influx of information bombarding us, it’s tough to handle.

Mandy Lehto, a former sales director, felt the weight of stress firsthand. Juggling work and family, she hit a breaking point when stress began affecting her health—sleepless nights, heart palpitations, you name it. She tried to power through with caffeine and exercise but ended up worse off.

It took a toll on her, physically and emotionally. It wasn’t until she stepped back, sought help, and made big changes—like leaving her job and focusing on her well-being—that things started to improve. Now, she’s all about finding balance, spending time with family, and taking life at a gentler pace.

What Makes Stress Harmful to Your Health?

Daryl O’Connor, a psychology professor at the University of Leeds, says stress comes in all shapes and sizes. From major events like losing a job or a loved one to the everyday pressures of a tough work environment or even a spat with a friend, it all adds up.

He emphasizes that stress isn’t just a fleeting thing—it can silently chip away at your health over time, affecting your well-being without you even realizing it. Stress is a sneaky troublemaker that we often underestimate.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress is a sneaky troublemaker—it’s tough to spot and can mess with your whole body. Professor O’Connor says it’s crucial to become “stress aware.” That means noticing when stress creeps in because it affects pretty much everything in your body.

Your liver starts acting up, making extra blood sugar when you’re stressed, which can up your chances of Type 2 diabetes. Stress hormones mess with your heart too, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks.

Digestion? That gets wonky too. Stress can cause tummy troubles and mess with your gut, leading to issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Plus, all that tension from stress? It piles up as headaches and body pains, making you dodge exercise, which isn’t great for your health either.

While stress initially revs up your immune system to patch you up, long-term stress weakens it. That makes you a target for viruses like colds and flu. And there’s more—stress messes with your mojo in the bedroom, affects periods and menopause symptoms, and even messes with your skin, causing conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

Professor O’Connor says science has loads of proof linking stress to these health problems—it’s like a domino effect on your body. Stress is a real pain, isn’t it?

Identifying Signs and Symptoms of Stress

Professor O’Connor breaks down stress symptoms into four groups. First up are the “cognitive” signs—think memory slip-ups, trouble focusing, looping thoughts, and trouble sleeping. Then there are the “emotional” indicators—feeling easily irritated, teary, unmotivated, or having low self-confidence.

Next, watch out for physical cues like chest pains, frequent colds, panic attacks, high blood pressure, and tummy issues, among others. Lastly, there are “behavioral” signs—like not being able to unwind, relying more on stuff like caffeine or cigarettes, and withdrawing from social activities or becoming more confrontational.

Once you spot these signs, it’s time to jump into stress management tactics. It’s all about catching it early and taking steps to tackle it head-on.

Strategies to Shield Yourself from Stress-Induced Damage

Building resilience means taking on challenges gradually, not diving straight into the deep end,” explains Professor Greenberg. It’s about finding that sweet spot between pushing yourself and avoiding difficulties altogether.

His advice? Start by helping yourself out. Switch off work emails after hours, unwind in the evenings, prioritize sleep, cut back on alcohol, and set aside quality time with family. Small steps like these make a big difference.

When stress feels overwhelming, don’t fall for the all-or-nothing mindset. Take breaks, relax, and you’ll find your way through. And if things persist, talk it out. Whether it’s with a close friend, your doctor, or someone you trust, having an open conversation can make a world of difference.

In your workplace, keeping tabs on your feelings is key, especially since work can ramp up chronic stress. Professor Greenberg suggests having what he calls “psychologically savvy conversations” with a colleague. Checking in every hour during high-stress times can slash mental health symptoms by 90%.

He’s big on exercise too—it’s not just about staying healthy but also giving your mind a breather from work. Moving your body helps zap stress hormones and boosts those feel-good chemicals in your brain.

And here’s a gem: connecting with folks who matter is a major stress buster. Being kind and spending time in nature, even just an hour a week, has serious science-backed benefits.

Then there’s therapy—stuff like cognitive behavioral therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy. They’re all about tweaking how you think and respond to tough situations, giving you more control over stress.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *