Stress is an emotional reaction to circumstances; it’s not something that should be personified nor taken as a way of life. People who are always stressed can be agitated, anxious, or tense, but that’s only what you see on the outside.
The presence of stress is natural. It’s how the human body triggers the fight or flight response that prepares you in stressful, frightening, or anxiety-inducing situations. During such a situation, your muscles can tense up to protect your body from experiencing pain, and relax afterward.
However, if you’re under chronic stress—meaning that your body is always in that state of high alertness, then the muscles in your body can’t relax because the tension doesn’t pass. This chronic stress can be detrimental to your physical, mental, and social well-being.
How Chronic Stress Affects Your Physical Health
When you are under stress, your nervous system responds by releasing hormones that signal the brain to prepare for whatever may come your way. You can feel your muscles tightening, your heart beating faster, and your breathing getting quicker.
After the stressful situation has passed, you will start to feel your body relaxing because it’s free of tension. But that doesn’t happen when you have chronic stress, especially if the stress from different situations overlaps with each other.
With this constant state of stress, your immune system can weaken over time and cause you to experience recurring headaches, body pain, ulcer, or lead to more serious conditions. Your adrenal glands that release the stress hormones will be forced to work double-time and can result in fatigue.
Fortunately, there are health centers that can offer you adrenal fatigue help before it becomes worse. You won’t have to suffer through sleeplessness, mental fogginess, or chronic fatigue any more than you already have if you seek help immediately.
How Chronic Stress Affects Your Mental Health
When you’re under stress, your body is not the only part of you that is on high alert. Once the brain receives the signal that you are stressed, it starts drawing in more oxygen to prepare for the anticipated pain. But if the stress doesn’t go away, it forces your mind into a state of constant anxiety.
Chronic stress can cause your mood swings to become more intense, you can begin lacking the motivation to do anything, and it increases the possibility of you having depression. Being depressed can result in sleep problems, fatigue, self-hate, guilt, loss of appetite, and agitation, among others.
Furthermore, when you don’t get a break from stressful situations while you’re dealing with depression, you can become more prone to suicidal thoughts and actions. It also increases your vulnerability to developing other mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder or anxiety.
How Chronic Stress Affects Your Social Health
Once the stress affects your mental health, your social well-being can follow soon after. You can begin experiencing anti-social behaviors because of everything you’re trying to deal with alone. When you pushed people away, you might begin turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms to handle your stress.
This is when most people turn to drugs, alcohol, or smoking to relieve their stress. But those are slippery slopes that can easily take a turn for the worse if left unchecked. When you let yourself get sucked into that black hole, it can start affecting your personal and professional relationships.
Without you noticing it, the stress that eats at you alive can be the very thing destroying your social life. You might also become less productive at work because you’re having difficulty focusing on the tasks at hand, especially if your mind is elsewhere.
How to Deal with Chronic Stress
Having healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress is the first step you can take to feel better. This means that you can’t turn to stress relievers that can put your health at risk, such as alcohol, drug, or nicotine dependence.
The best way to get rid of stress is by identifying what your stressors are. Do you panic when the bills arrive or when your work gets piled up? Are you going through a life-changing event such as a divorce or a break-up? By identifying the root cause of your stress, you can start developing solutions to get rid of it.
You can also follow the 4 A’s of stress management, where you avoid the unnecessary stress, alter the situations you can change, adapt to the situation, or learn to accept what you can’t change. Only then can you actually manage your stress efficiently without risking your health in the process.