7 ways stress can affect the body
We all get stressed sometimes. It seems impossible not to, what with the demands of modern life – eat well, exercise, do well at work and further your career, keep in touch with friends and family, maintain your relationship, look after your mental health, keep your house clean, raise your children. And that’s just your starter for ten.
While stress is a psychological response to pressure, it’s important to know that it can also have alarming physical effects on the body too. We asked the experts at private rehab clinic Delamere to share some of the more surprising ways stress has an impact on our bodies.
Stress can make you vulnerable to illness
Stress can prevent our immune system from functioning to the best of its ability, making us more vulnerable to illness.
This is because stress responses can decrease our body’s lymphocytes, which are white blood cells used to help fight off infection. The lower the count of lymphocytes, the more likely it is that we’ll catch a cold and be susceptible to other illnesses.
It can shrink your brain
Even among healthy people, long-term stress can shrink areas of the brain which are associated with emotions and metabolism. High levels of stress can also raise levels of the hormone cortisol, which can impact brain size, function and also performance when people are exposed to cognitive tests.
You might lose your sex drive
Increased cortisol levels can also lower your libido. During a chronic state of stress, your body will be focusing entirely on producing cortisol and not on the other hormones it should be creating, such as testosterone and estrogen. And so, stress can also lead to cases such as erectile dysfunction.
Stress can cause weight gain
Ever heard of the term stress eating? There is a scientific explanation behind this. High levels of cortisol can also stimulate your fat and carbohydrate metabolism, which in turn increases your appetite. You may then have an urge to seek comfort in unhealthy food habits – craving sweet, fatty or salty foods.
Stress makes it harder to conceive
Research shows that stress can have an adverse effect on your sperm count and quality, which may make conceiving more difficult. It’s not exactly understood why stress affects sperm, but it’s thought to be linked to stress lowering testosterone levels and halting the production of sperm.
It can disrupt your memory
It’s common for people to experience memory problems when faced with stress, depression or anxiety. After all, when our mind is overwhelmed, we are distracted instead of being fully observant.
Stress can even affect how our memories are formed. When stressed, we often find it more difficult to generate short-term memories and transmit these into long-term ones.
It might give you heartburn
Heartburn is not just down to the foods we consume – stress also plays a big impact. When we are stressed, our digestion process slows down and food is kept in the stomach for longer. This response, therefore, gives stomach acids more time to build up and cause stress-related heartburn.
How to deal with stress
It’s pretty clear that stress can have a real impact on both our physical and mental health, but how can we deal with it?
Martin Preston, founder of Delamere, said:
“The key to combating stress is to, first of all, begin from within. Steps such as eating healthily, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep are some of the key starting points to living a happier, healthier life.
“If you find your stress levels are getting too high, it’s always best to talk about it, whether that’s to your loved ones or a professional. If you struggle to open up, perhaps write down your feelings on a notepad and use this as a coping mechanism whenever you feel things are getting too much.
“When it comes to dealing with stress, the important thing to remember is that you are never on your own and there are plenty of tools you can use to help you back on your feet.”