Is stress making you sick?

By September 5, 2016Stress, Work

The word “stress” has been floating around for a while now. However, we often use the word as a synonym for feeling exhausted without really understanding what stress means or what it can actually do to you.

The dictionary says that being under stress means being in “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” Which means that every time we take that extra work shift, or fight with the boss, we are overextending our emotional and mental resources. Here’s why this should be a matter of concern.

  1. Weakened Immune System: Whenever we experience excessive pressure of any kind, emotional, mental or physical, our brain interprets this as a sign of danger. Hence, it pushes the immune system into overdrive to protect the body. When we are constantly under stress and our immune system is working overtime, it begins to get fatigued. This leaves you prone to falling sick, as a tired immune system can no longer protect you from illnesses and diseases.
  1. Excessive Cortisol: Part of the immune system’s function is to release the hormone cortisol into the blood so that the body has enough energy for a fight or flight response to the stress. However, this is done at the cost of regular body processes, which are put on hold while the body deals with the stress. When these body processes are frequently disrupted, you can end up with hormonal imbalances and weight gain.
  1. Diabetes Risk: Cortisol inhibits insulin production and instead asks the body for more glucose to provide the extra energy to fight stress. This means that your blood sugar levels go up, leaving you at risk for Type 2 diabetes.
  1. Heart Trouble: Stress increases your blood pressure, which puts excessive strain on your heart. Also, when you’re stressed you’re more likely to indulge in activities, such as smoking, drinking and eating cholesterol-rich food, all of which are bad news for your cardiovascular system. With a compromised immune system, even a minor heart attack can be fatal.
  1. Gastric Discomfort: For most people, stress shows up first as gastric trouble, in the form of acid reflux and nausea. Prolonged acidity can result in painful ulcers, which can severely restrict your diet.
  1. Digestive Distress: Stress often disrupts regular eating, which in turn affects our bowel movements. Constant constipation can lead to the accumulation of toxins in our body and over time can lead to blood poisoning and organ failure. Similarly, irritable bowel syndrome can interrupt proper digestion and lead to an insufficient absorption of nutrients from the food we eat.
  1. Mental Health: Stress can foster numerous mental illnesses, depression and anxiety being the most common. These can affect your day-to-day functioning and prevent you from leading a joyful life.

Although intangible on its own, stress shows up in many different ways. We at wayForward can help you identify the signs of stress in time to prevent it from taking over your life. If you feel you might be at risk, don’t hesitate to reach out.