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Stress Advice - How Can Stress Affect Your Health?

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How Does Stress Affect the Body?

How does stress affect the body and your health? Can stress make you sick? It most certainly can cause a whole array of minor ailments through to serious illness if it is allowed to get out of control over any period of time. Here's what happens to our body when we allow stress to build up and take us over.

Stress is caused as a result of fear. In days of old, it was probably a wild animal that frightened us or a stronger human being threatening us that was our trigger for stress. Our body would react for the sake of our own survival by producing the necessary chemicals to allow us to either fight or run away as fast as we could. Although it is now rare to meet a wild animal, stress is rampant in our society. So why is this?

These days, stress is a very personal matter and our stress triggers will vary widely from person to person. However unlikely it may seem, stress and anxiety are not caused by the external circumstances in our lives but by our own perceptions of whether or not we can cope with those circumstances, and the levels of fear that we experience around those situations.

So, stress is caused by our own fears and anxieties, which are a result of our thoughts and mental actions. When we start to believe a thought which causes us fear, we experience stress. The body still generates that "fight or flight response" although it does not necessarily serve us well.

Our stress responses, when activated, include certain bodily symptoms such as a thumping heart and shallow breathing. Stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol are released by the body in preparation to defend ourselves or flee. Some functions of the body are suppressed whilst others are on red alert. Blood pressure rises as additional blood is pumped to the muscles that are primed ready for action.

What Does Stress Do to the Body?

These days, we rarely use the chemicals produced during stress to fight or flee and they are left rampaging round our body until they can be dealt with. When stress becomes a habit, we get a regular overdose of these chemicals and the symptoms they produce, and this can be damaging to the body causing many unwanted side-effects.

Left unchecked, regular stress can cause such stress-related problems as raised blood pressure, heart disease, bowel/stomach disorders (ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome), problems in the reproductive system, skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis. This is not to mention a myriad of smaller problems such as tension, anxiety, stress headaches, aches and pains, rashes and other inexplicable symptoms to mention but a few. The way that stress affects each individual body is different and a person may even be unaware that their symptoms are stress-related.

As I have said, stress is a very personal reaction to your own perceptions and certain people cope with stress better than others. Not everyone's health is affected in the same way. This may depend, to a certain extent, on your personality type, your outlook and perceptions around life, and the amount of support that you feel you receive from other people on a regular basis. For example, do you see a situation as a challenge to be faced or a problem that you don't feel able to deal with? Men are thought to have higher stress reactions than women although this difference is reduced for women in more traditionally male roles.

Can Stress Make You Sick?

Yes, you have already seen that it can. Now you know how stress affects your body and health, it is more important than ever that you develop your own personal stress coping strategies toolbox to relieve and fight stress. Don't put your health at risk by leaving stress unchecked. Start to fight stress today. You will find plenty of advice and tips on these pages for relieving and reducing stress. Check them out to find the ones that work best for you.

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