While most of us agree that life has inevitably become more stressful during the pandemic, some people have been hesitant to acknowledge that they have experienced stress. We need to keep in mind that stress is a highly common condition that can happen to everyone, though on different levels.
Things you should know about stress
The UK Mental Health Foundation defines stress as the degree to which one feels overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of unmanageable forms of pressure. That feeling will subsequently stimulate the production and release of stress hormones that trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response in our body.
While this response might be appropriate in certain situations, other times our frequently activated or persistent stress response might cause us to experience a constant ‘fight or flight’ state, causing overwhelming pressure. Known as chronic stress, whether or not we realize it, this condition may harm our mental and physical health. Therefore, dismissing your stress symptoms is never the right thing to do.
Health problems related to stress
1. Cardiovascular disease
In various studies, experts have theorized that people who live a stressful life have a higher risk of high blood pressure and heart problems. During a stressful situation, your heart rate and blood flow increases, which lead to the release of cholesterol and triglycerides into your bloodstream. These high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood increase your risk of various heart conditions. Furthermore, initial researches have revealed that emotional stress does indeed increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks.
Tension headaches are more likely to occur when you are experiencing stress. Thus, if you suffer from short-term stress, you may experience the occasional headache. However, if you suffer from long-term stress, the headaches are likely to be chronic as well. Chronic headaches may have a direct impact on the quality of your daily life. Furthermore, experts have stated that stress is a major trigger for migraines as well.
3. Irritable bowel syndrome
Stress is a common factor in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic disorder that affects the large intestine. IBS causes symptoms such as cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, as well as diarrhea, or constipation. Studies have shown a link between stress and increased sensitivity and movement in the intestines that can trigger symptoms of IBS. Experts also stated that the ability of your gut to function properly is affected by the impact of stress on your immune system.
While stress alone doesn’t cause diabetes, it can indeed affect your blood sugar levels and expose you to a higher risk of diabetes complications. Besides, during stressful times, people tend to get into unhealthy eating habits and excessive consumption of alcohol. Those harmful habits may worsen diabetes. Other studies have also revealed that stress seems to directly increase the levels of glucose in people with type 2 diabetes.
Managing your stress
Once you acknowledge that you are experiencing stress, it is time to manage your stress to lead a healthier life and lower your health risks. Several simple things that you can start practicing are:
- Relaxation techniques such as mediation, yoga, breath focus, or any other recommended techniques
- Making time to do more of what makes you happy, such as listening to music, gardening, painting, fun DIY projects, or spending some time in nature
- Getting regular physical exercise
- Spending quality time with your loved ones
We hope that you actively try to manage your stress and stay healthy during this challenging time. However, if you feel like you are experiencing a level of chronic stress that interferes with your physical health that you can’t manage yourself, please make sure that you consult your healthcare provider.