What is stress?
The effects of stress may seem really clear. Most people are aware when they are stressed. But beyond some of the most obvious signs, there can be other more subtle consequences for your body. As a starting point, we need to understand what stress is.
In medical terms, stress is tension in the body or mind caused by physical, emotional or psychological factors. Clearly, there is often a link between the different factors. An easy example being that physical tension can lead to heightened mental tension.
This interplay means that stress can either intensify if we ignore the separate factors or diminish if we start to tackle them one by one.
The effects of stress on the body
The origins of stress occur when we perceive we are under threat. It doesn’t matter if the threat is real or imagined, it will still stimulate the much-talked-about fight-or-flight response.
This is an automatic chemical response that causes the heart-rate to increase, the breathing to quicken, muscles to tighten and blood pressure to rise. And is part of a natural biological response preparing us to deal with the danger.
The body will ordinarily return back to its normal state if the cause of the stress is a one-off or isolated event. These episodic incidents are fairly normal and are referred to as ‘acute’ stress.
The more harmful impact of stress normally occurs when the stress becomes ‘chronic‘. In this situation, you have repeated situations that you feel threatened by and they keep your physiology unnaturally stimulated with little or no time for the body to renormalise.
Consequently, the physiological tension builds and causes a cascade of emotional and psychological symptoms along with it.
Recognising the symptoms of stress
There are a large number of symptoms of stress, probably too numerous to mention in this short article. But some of the clear physical signs you can look out for include repeated headaches, chest pains, stomach ache, muscle tension and low energy levels.
Other indicators that you are suffering the effects of stress might include constipation or diarrhea, insomnia, a dry mouth or even ringing in the ears. You may also notice unnerving changes in your behaviour. Typically changes in appetite, increased procrastination, increased use of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes are all indicative of the potential for underlying stress issues.
If you suspect you are suffering from chronic stress, it is vital that you do not ignore the signs. Longer term, chronic stress can have serious consequences. These might include any of the following; skin and hair problems, eating disorders, gastritis or menstrual problems. In the worst cases, it can lead to cardiovascular disease, depression or serious mental health issues.
What to do next
If you suspect you have eating disorder due to stress, your first port of call should be an eating disorder center.
Monte Nido Portland offers evidenced-based residential programming for eating disorders. You will need a clear diagnosis of how stressed you are and guidance on whether you need any psychological interventions such as individual psychotherapy or counseling.
At the same time, don’t underestimate the value in taking time out to focus on yourself. In particular, making an effort to be more attentive to your physical health can lead you on a more positive path.
Remedial therapies such as massage can have an incredibly calming effect and will help to relieve muscle tension. And activities such as yoga or Pilates that put a strong emphasis on proper breathing technique can work wonders.
If you are based in the Islington area (N1), we would be more than happy to help. We hope this information is useful for you. If you have any questions about our treatments, please contact us. You can find us 3 mins away from Angel station in Islington. If you like this blog, please share!