Everyone deals with stress in their lives. And—in small doses—this can be a very good thing. Manageable amounts of stress can actually help you perform at your best and may even help you develop your abilities. However, far too many of us are stressed to the point that our health and well-being could be compromised.
Stress: Helpful or Harmful?
When you are in a dangerous situation, your body responds with a rush of chemicals. This “flight-or-fight” response leads to an increased heart rate, quicker breathing, and higher blood pressure. In a truly dangerous situation, this response helps you make fast decisions and prepares your body for quick action that could save your life. Your body is able to handle this response in small doses over short periods of time, but when your body is constantly on “high alert,” your health pays the price.
Unfortunately, your body doesn’t differentiate between a physical threat (such as being attacked by a bear) and a psychological one (such as being three months behind on your electric bill). Therefore, everyday life is filled with interactions that could trigger a stress response in certain circumstances. A car honking at you on the highway, your boss reprimanding you in front of your peers, a call from your child’s teacher, and hundreds of other common occurrences can have a very real impact on your physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. And their effects can and do add up.
The Symptoms of Stress
Constant or repeated stressful incidents can take a heavy toll. The most insidious part of ongoing stress is that this toll is not always easy to spot. Stress levels can build up slowly, and many people become acclimated to a “new normal” without realizing that it’s happening. Knowing how to spot the symptoms of stress can help you break the cycle by either addressing the underlying causes or by finding more effective ways to deal with the stress itself.
Have you noticed any of the following symptoms?
- Constant worrying or anxiety
- Inability to concentrate
- Agitation or irritability
- Feelings of loneliness, isolation, or depression
- Digestive issues, such as upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation
- Insomnia or low energy levels
- Chest pain or rapid heartbeat
- Appetite changes
- Substance abuse
- Nervous behaviors, such as fidgeting or nail biting
These are just a few of the signs of stress overload. Consistently feeling stressed can also exacerbate other health problems, including infertility, depression, skin conditions, autoimmune disease, and heart disease. Stress may also encourage people to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overindulging in comfort food, drinking or smoking too much, or lashing out at friends and family, which can further impact their physical and emotional well-being.
Healthy Ways to Cope With Stress
Coping with stress in a healthy and productive way can help you to manage its physical, psychological and emotional impacts. While you can’t always control the stressors in your life, you can control how you respond. By avoiding unnecessary stress, adapting to new situations, and accepting the things you can’t change, you can reduce the physical toll stress takes on your body.
Improving your overall physical health can also improve your body’s response to stress. It might be difficult to know where to start, so consider meeting with your chiropractor to learn more. Your chiropractor can help you create lifestyle strategies to leave you feeling healthier, happier, and better able to deal with life’s many stressors.