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In the previous article Stress!!! What causes it??, we established two important points. The first being that no one is immune to stress – we all have to deal with stress from time to time in varying degrees. The second is that stress may develop from frustration, conflict and pressure which may result from dissatisfaction at work, financial instability, relationship difficulties and a too busy life with no time for relaxation. However, we also discovered that stress, in certain circumstances, is necessary and could assist us.
BUT, what effect does stress have on our body, especially over a prolonged period of time?
So you are up before anyone else in the house each morning, to ensure that clothes for the day are out, lunches packed, breakfasts ready and all of the other 100 things that need to be done are completed before you are even able to think about getting yourself ready for the day. By the time you are ready to leave the house you have looked at at the 50 clocks dispersed around your house at least 25 times trying to judge whether you are leaving early enough to drop everyone off and still be at the office on time. Of course, all of your efforts could be blown out of the window if the traffic is a shocker. Still you make your way out of the door with all “passengers” in tow and hop into your vehicle ready to start your morning drop off routine. Luckily this morning the traffic was flowing relatively smoothly and you arrive at the office with a couple of minutes to spare and grab a quick cup of coffee before the next part of your day begins. Your job is pressurised dealing with clients, bosses, co-workers and an endless amount of phone calls, e-mails, presentations and meetings, all the time being challenged by others ideas, queries and questions. Eventually after a number of hours of continuous rushing and busyness its time to grab your bag and be on your way to start your afternoon collection routine before you will arrive at home again. Though as you walk through the front door there are a number of things that need your attention like homework, feeding and walking pets, finding lost toys, ensuring everyone baths without drowning and actually does put on clean pyjamas etc before you are even able to think about what you may feed the hungry hoard this evening. And just as you can see the light and have managed to get through most things its time for dinner and now your looking in the fridge, freezer and pantry cupboard to see what there is available for you to throw together to make a half decent meal in super quick time before you have a riot on your hands. Eventually you sit down to enjoy your meal only to be asked a number of times for tea, coffee or juice by each of your family members (an oh no – definitely not all at the same time – that would be far too simple). After what seems like an eternity everyone finishes their meals and settles down to watch a little television before bed. However you are not able to join in as dishes still have to be washed, the washing machine put on, school bags unpacked and re-packed for the next day etc etc. After a time everyone drifts off to their respective sleeping quarters and you are eventually able to see to having a bath and getting yourself ready for bed. And eventually after everyone else has fallen asleep you are, again, the only person up and still trying to complete some of the tasks from this morning that you just didn’t have time for. Falling into bed seems to be the end of your day however you lie awake thinking off what needs to be done the following morning.
This is the scenario used in the previous article, which still applies, however in addition to running around like a mad person all day long your body has developed (over the last few weeks) a few complaints which are just making your entire day that much more difficult.
When you awaken each morning you are exhausted and would much rather just roll over and go back to sleep. The exhaustion, constant tiredness and lack of energy make you feel miserable and unnecessarily irritable. Your neck is in a spasm and you have a killer headache. In addition, you know that by the afternoon your back will also be causing you pain (because this how it has been for days now) which only makes your neck spasm more and your headache worse. By the time you are halfway through the morning you have already taken a number of painkillers and muscle relaxants, which seem to have little effect. You either don’t have an appetite or you want to eat the entire pantry cupboards contents, which will it be today? Oh no, someone has just walked into your office with a cold and is coughing and sneezing at the desk right next to yours. You attempt to block the germs, being only too fully aware that every time someone is ill in your vicinity you seem to fall ill too, in a matter of hours. By tonight you will be again hoping that you will feel better in the morning whilst feeling frustrated and irritated with your body.
There is absolutely no doubt that chronic stress can have serious effects on your body and mind. Back pain, headaches, dizziness, frequent colds and heart palpitations are common symptoms of stress. Are you aware that repeated episodes of acute stress can cause inflammation in the coronary arteries and that extended periods of chronic stress may also lead to anxiety disorders?
When you become stressed your body releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which increase your heart rate as well as your blood pressure, your senses become heightened, your breathing more rapid, glucose and fats are released into your blood stream and your muscles tighten. Higher than normal adrenaline and cortisol levels become problematic when sustained for a long period of time by place pressure on the immune system, increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke as well as speed up the ageing process.
Lets take a look at how stress affects the various parts of your body: