Despite what many people think, the effects of stress on your body and well-being are not all bad. Stress can, in fact, have a positive side to it, and there are times when we welcome its presence. But the effects of stress can be negative, as evidenced by many a headache and bout of anxiety. Having established that there are two types of stress, good and bad, we will now briefly examine how both affect the body.
Good stress is rather difficult, if not impossible, to control. It usually comes on unexpectedly and causes the brain to start pumping the chemicals cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine into the body. This type of stress may be brought on when a “fight or flight” situation arises, or when you go on a scary amusement park ride. The effects of stress on the body in these instances include, heightening of the senses, faster heartbeat, and increased blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Here, the effects of stress are welcome and could mean the difference between life and death. “Good” stress can also help us to focus our energies and problem-solving skills to achieve positive results.
The human body is designed so that when it believes it is under threat, real or perceived, it will gear itself up to meet whatever the impending challenge is. Your body does this by increasing your heart rate to supply more blood to the body quickly. Your body diverts blood from less vital to more vital organs, and your blood pressure increases to accommodate a more efficient blood supply. The body provides more access to glucose by converting glycogen reserves in the muscle and liver and forms more glucose from non-carbohydrate substances. The body also retrieves more oxygen from the atmosphere by increasing its respiratory rate.
In cases where the source of the stress persists, the body will continue to try to keep itself in a heightened state of readiness, and this could be seriously detrimental to your health. This is known as long-term stress. The effects of long-term stress on the body can include irreversible physiological damage to the brain and other organs. The damage could result in unintended weight-loss, chronic headaches, mood swings, strokes and heart attacks. Increased cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels, substance abuse, anxiety disorders and decreased sexual drive are all serious side effects of long-term stress. It is clear that stress is not something to be taken lightly. With the numerous health risks that it poses, controlling the stress in your life may be the key to your health and happiness.
Until Tomorrow: Change in all things is sweet.