The Spooky Effects of Stress

Even at the mention of the word “stress”, we are instantly, well, stressed. Even so, stress is not always bad. In fact, the stress response can provide a vital warning system, boost memory and concentration and aid in the efficiency of tasks. But prolonged, relentless stress has a number of harmful effects on the body’s systems.

  • Excessive levels of cortisol – Cortisol is a stress hormone that can remain in your body all day versus fading away quickly like the other stress hormones, adrenaline and norepinephrine. Chronic stress that causes high levels of cortisol can cause weight gain, inflammation, heart disease and diabetes. Cortisol can also kill cells in the hippocampus and prematurely age the brain (as we age, we need as many brain cells as we can get).
  • Weakened immune system – When we are chronically stressed, we are at greater risk of infection due to our bodies’ inability to fight off antigens. The stress hormone corticosteroid can directly harm our bodies by suppressing the immune system. In addition, during stressful circumstances, we choose unhealthy habits, like consuming junk food, that also can open us up to sickness.
  • Mental Disorders – Scientists are still uncovering the full effects of stress on the brain. But it is believed that long term, chronic stress affects both the nerve cells and the connectors in the brain. It may actually change the structure of the brain, thereby harming learning and memory. In addition, stress can cause depression, anxiety and other mental disorders in certain people.
  • Digestive Issues – When under stress, the liver produces extra glucose, which gives you a boost of energy. But, the body is unable to process the extra glucose over extended periods of time, leading to type 2 diabetes. Stress can also cause an increase in stomach acid, resulting in acid reflux. It can increase your risk for ulcers and cause exiting ones to flare, while also hindering the effective passing of food through the digestive system.

How can I reduce my stress level?

  1. Massage
  2. Don’t be too hard on yourself
  3. Practice meditation/visualization
  4. Exercise
  5. Commit to good nutrition
  6. Find a hobby
  7. Pick your battles
  8. Talk to others
  9. Reduce your caffeine intake
  10. Journal
  11. Breathe deeply
  12. Chew gum
  13. Listen to soothing music

Crannage, Ali. (2018, May 16) Stress and our mental health – what is the impact & how can we tackle it?, https://www.mqmentalhealth.org/posts/stress-and-mental-health

Pietrangelo, Ann and Watson, Stephanie. (2017, June 5) The Effects of Stress on Your Body, https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body#1