The title of this article is “too much stress can be bad for you” and in many ways that are an understatement. But let’s just look at some of the ways that stress can take its toll on your body.
The first thing that happens when you’re under stress is your heart starts pounding. And that goes back to a caveman and a cavewoman – you know their heart near to start pumping all that blood around to get to the muscles so that you could chase after and hunt down that wooly mammoth or run away from that sabre tooth tiger.
You had to make sure that all the blood was getting to the right muscles and getting to your brain and making sure that your body had the right amount of blood that it needed to do the job – the “fight or flight”. Of course, that leads to high blood pressure and high blood pressure in short doses isn’t too bad but sustained high blood pressure can be very harmful. It can lead to things like headaches as just the mildest form of high blood pressure can lead to headaches but it can also (if you’re very unlucky) give you a heart attack. Because of too much blood pressure, you can blow a blood vessel or in some other way damage your heart and bring on a heart attack.
It can lead to a stroke and then of course with all that blood pumping around and the heightened state of awareness your body releases all sorts of endocrine and glucose to make sure that your muscles have all the extra nutrients that they need. If you don’t need it your body will recycle that and that ends up in your digestive system and too much of it can lead to indigestion and in its mildest form that can lead to heartburn, in its extreme form if it carries on over a long period of time that can lead to stomach ulcers.
Stress can also take its toll on your reproductive system. In women this can mean an irregular menstrual cycle, in men, this can mean erectile dysfunction. In both sexes, it can lead to difficulty sleeping – when you toss and turn you can’t sleep at night and that can bring on depression and stress is probably the leading cause of depression. It can lead to other things as well like diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, fear… the list just goes on and on.
A lot of people will try and self-medicate to deal with the effects of stress and some of the more common things are smoking, they might turn to alcohol – you know, a drink to “calm your nerves” can become a drink to “calm down” and before you know it you’re alcohol dependent. They can take over-the-counter medications. This can start out with something as harmless as an aspirin for a headache or an antacid for an upset stomach but then that can come on more and more and become a dependency on over-the-counter medications. People can start taking natural remedies. There’s nothing wrong with natural remedies but if you don’t know what you’re doing they can be very harmful.
Finally people can start taking lots of prescription drugs either the ones that are recommended by the doctors or something that somebody gives you – we’ve all been there, we’ve all had people at work who say “Ah you’ve got this sort of problem, here, try this, my doctor recommends this”. So you start taking somebody else’s prescription drugs without really knowing what they are and that can lead to quite serious health problems.
Of course smoking, alcohol and other things here also have their own health problems associated with them in addition to the stress. So you might end up having, even more, health problems brought on by the things that you’re doing to try to combat the stress so it becomes a really vicious circle.