HealthRuby : Adulthood

7 Unexpected Effects of Stress on Body – and what to do about it?

How body responds to stress and how to manage stress?

Stress is a part of life.

It usually feels like you are restless, feeling irritable or moody, forgetting little things, and sometimes feeling isolated as well. Don’t worry, we all had been there.

At specific points, we must all deal with various forms of mental stress. Children face school stress, new social circumstances, and even growing up. Adults have a feeling of tension for working, bills, childcare, and household maintenance. This is why so many individuals anticipate their retirement years, envisioning long, open days full of possibilities and leisure. But on the contrary, older people feel stressed too, and it’s a very natural and expected process.

Sadly, the natural body’s stress defenses eventually collapse with age.

And the number of stress hormones known as cortisone increases.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the average stress level of adults in the United States in 2015 was 5.1 on a scale of 1 to 10.

HOW DO STRESS HORMONES WORK?

Types of Stress

There are two types of stresses:

  1. Physical Stress: It is generally a normal response to aging. Wounds heal more slowly as individuals age, and colds become more challenging to overcome. A heart that is 75 years old may take a long time to adapt to the demands of exercise.
  2. Mental Stress: Emotional stress is less obvious, but the long-term effects can be just as harmful.

Stress usually begins with something between different hormones of the body that control your stress reaction. Whenever your brain detects a stressful situation, this system gets activated and releases the hormone called Cortisol. It increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose, and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. It usually returns to an average level when the alert activity is over.

Stressed-out brains emit potentially high levels of this cortisol at any age. The brain would turn down the alert when stress chemicals reach an abnormally high level. The stress of over too many years can throw a person’s system off balance, and it becomes hard to shut down these hormones, thus, increasing the stress level.

Stress hormones can also harm your physical health. According to research, high stress levels have been related to heart disease, high blood pressure, and a weaker immune system.

WHAT CAUSES STRESS?

Many risk factors can predispose towards stress, according to NHS ;

  1. Divorce.
  2. Loss of a loved one.
  3. Increase in financial obligations and long working hours.
  4. Being unhappy in your job.
  5. Working under dangerous conditions.
  6. Deterioration of physical abilities and chronic illness.
  7. Traumatic event (theft, violence, etc.)
  8. Menopause (in women).
  9. Midlife crisis.
  10. Retirement ( feeling of relying on others)

How do We Known if We are Stressed?

  1. Changes in eating habits: either too much eating or meager appetite are the two main extremes that are observed in people. This usually results in overeating and indigestion. Fluctuations in weight are also observed.
  2. Mood changes:  Mood swings, depression, anxiety, frequent crying, panic attacks, irritability, feeling indifferent, and gloomy.
  3. Memory issues: Forgetfulness, lack of concentration, difficulty in short-term memory, and bad decision-making.
  4. Sleep disturbances: insomnia, trouble falling asleep, or interrupted nighttime sleep.
  5. Unnecessary worrying. 
  6. Withdrawal: Either socially or from all those activities that once were enjoyable. Leading to self-isolation.
  7. Physical changes: Tension headaches, gastric disturbances, muscle aches, tiredness. Increased episodes of illness,

HOW STRESS AFFECT YOUR HEALTH

Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on your body.

Musculoskeletal system

 

Tension-type headache and migraine headache, and chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck, and head.
Respiratory system

 

Shortness of breath and rapid breathing, as the airway between the nose and the lungs constricts.
Cardiovascular system

 

Long-term stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.
Gastrointestinal system

 

Trigger pain, bloating, heartburn, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation.
Nervous system

 

Frequent fight or flight response causes wear and tear of the nervous system.
Male reproductive system

 

A decline in sex drive and can even cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. It also affects normal male reproductive functioning.
Female reproductive system

 

Many changes in pregnancy, menopause, postmenopausal process.

HOW TO DE-STRESS – PROTECTIVE FACTORS AND FIXES TO STRESS

1. Maintain a positive outlook

Positive thinking, such as appreciating one’s achievements and strengths, can help to enhance self-confidence and to cope with stress. According to research, people with more positive attitudes may also deal with stress better and have a stronger will to live. Research from Yale University revealed that those feeling well when older than “half-empty glass” types live around seven and half years longer.

Being happy is achievable by anyone; practice this researched formula of being happy for yourself and share with your loved ones.

2. Pinpoint your stressors

Identify what’s causing you to stress out? Is it a modifiable factor? Discover your surroundings and write down the possible factors. Talk to any close person about them. They might help you relieve your worries.

3. Mindfulness

One of our major methods for dealing is to cultivate a feeling of awareness. Practicing mindfulness can assist you in recognizing and tolerating your emotions, reduce vulnerability, and softening the impacts of high levels of stress in the future. You can start with meditation, writing journals, and relaxation techniques. There are many applications available on the apps store that help to relax and learn breathing exercises. Research has also shown that practicing gratitude can serve as a protective factor against nervous tension. Keeping a gratitude journal and writing down three things you’re grateful for every day might help you educate your brain to focus on the positive.

Meditate, Dont medicate. 

4. Physical activity

Find a physical activity you enjoy, whether itโ€™s walking, biking, swimming, or taking an exercise class with friends. A study conducted at the University of Illinois clearly showed how modest but regular aerobic exercise can improve overall cognitive health. Older adults who participated in the study took 40-minute walks three days per week over the course of one year.

Exercise spurs the generation of new brain cellsA recent study showed positive results for exercise as a medication for reducing stress and anxiety.

Engaging in moderate or high-intensity physical exercise, such as a 30-minute run, could help reduce stress levels. 

group of older adults sitting stress free

5. Socializing

Maintaining a healthy social support network helps relax and increase the level of happy hormones. During difficult times, friends and loved ones offer a shoulder to cry on, and simply sharing your thoughts with others can help relieve some of the tension you’re feeling. Make an effort to form relationships and meet individuals who will validate your feelings and support you through difficult times.

6. Dietary modification

Many foods help to reduce stress. It includes;

  1. Green leafy veggies,
  2. Turkey,
  3. Blueberries,
  4. Dark chocolate,
  5. Salmon,
  6. Oatmeal,
  7. Red peppers,
  8. Nuts,
  9. Fermented yogurt,
  10. A study published in March 2013 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests chamomile may reduce anxiety by helping rewire the body’s stress response and increasing the production of the feel-good hormones.

Experts highly recommend the avoidance of refined carbs, sugar, alcohol, and smoking. They help to slow down mental aging. Meanwhile, remember to find out the best food choice according to your age.

an image of stressed woman relaxing7. Rise above the fray

Try something exciting & new, especially that you haven’t done before. It can be a new hobby, trying a new recipe, buying and remodeling any vehicle, walking in a new park, adopting a pet, and volunteering in social work. You can also learn to use new gadgets as it’s always fun. Sometimes, simply switching up your daily routine can help with stress management.

8.  Don’t skip your sleep

Make sure you are indulging in healthy habits, such as attaining 7-9 hours of sleep, to help minimize your body’s stress reaction. Further evidence also suggests that exercise directly impacts sleep quality in people over 40 with sleep difficulties.

9. Laugh aloud!

Laughter is the best medicine! It can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress, so don’t miss any chance of laughing at a pleasant joke.! No doubt that a good sense of humor doesn’t go wrong anytime! ๐Ÿ˜

 

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Aimen

Being a Doctor by profession, Aimen is passionate about helping people get better health in their lives. Aimen enjoys her research on Prime With Time subjects and strives to create better awareness of the problems and changes related to women's health.

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