Stress and Your Body: What's Really Happening?

Stress and Your Body: Think stress is just feeling anxious? Think again. Stress is a whole chain reaction of chemicals that flood your system - which is good in the moments when your fight or flight response is necessary. But over your lifetime when you deal with chronic stress, those chemical reactions can take a toll on your health and well-being. Below are just a few of the ways you can see stress in your body, in the short and long term.

Stress and Your Body:

Stress and your body: Unhealthy Food Cravings
Find yourself reaching for that pint of ice cream when you’re stressed? There’s a scientific reason for that! Cortisol, a hormone released by your body when it’s stressed, is linked to cravings for sugar and fat.

Stress and your body: Fat Storage
Stress can actually increase the amount of fat that your body stores and enlarges the size of fat cells. This can lead to weight gain and increase your risk for obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – key risk factors for cardiovascular disease [link to health screening for heart disease). Exercise, however, can help combat fat storage, in addition to reducing your overall stress level. So find a regimen that works for you and stick to it.

Stress and your body: Heart Problems
If you suffer from chronic stress, it could be affecting your heart health. While an exact link between chronic stress and heart attacks isn’t clear, studies have shown that individuals who suffer from job related stress have a 23% more likely to have a first heart attack vs. people with no job related stress.

Stress and your body: Sleep Habits
Stress may occasionally keep you up at night, but if you have long-term stress it can disrupt your sleep pattern and potentially cause a disorder.

Stress and your body: Hair Loss
Severe stress can harm your locks. Stress can trigger hair loss from an autoimmune condition known as alopecia areata. If stress is coupled with anxiety, it can contribute to a mental disorder that gives people an urge to pull their own hair out.

Stress and your body: Blood Sugar
Stress can raise blood sugar, and if you have type 2 diabetes, you may notice that your blood sugar levels are higher if you are stressed.

Stress and your body: Raises Blood Pressure
Being in a stressful situation can raise your blood pressure by constricting your blood vessels and speeding up your heart rate. While in most cases this is temporary, it’s unclear if chronic stress can cause long-lasting effects.

Stress and your body: Brain Tissue
Research now shows that major stress can actually reduce the amount of brain tissue in areas that regulate emotions and self-control.
 ~ parts adapted via

Stress and your body: More Symptoms Of A Stressed Out Life
Some symptoms of stress are small and fairly easy to ignore - like eye twitches or mild acne - but others, like blood pressure or IBS, are far more serious. Whether your outward symptoms are mild or severe, seeing stress effects on your body means that it’s time to address the anxiety in your life and start getting back control!

Stress and your body: Stomachaches
The brain's nervous system is linked to the gut's, so mental stress can wreak havoc on your GI tract, says Bincy Abraham, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Baylor College of Medicine. Depending on your situation, your doctor may treat your tummy troubles with over-the-counter drugs (stool softeners), prescriptions (such as anti-nausea meds), or dietary changes (fiber can restore your gut's stress-ravaged helpful bacteria).

In the meantime, the best natural remedy for stress-caused constipation, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting is. . .exercise. It may sound like the last thing you want to do when your stomach is aching, but heading out for a run can boost endorphins that make the mind and gut feel better.

Stress and your body: Eyelid Twitching
These annoying muscle spasms typically occur around one eye and last for a few minutes. Stress is one of their most common causes, though doctors aren't quite sure why.

When a twitch strikes, close your eyes, try to relax, and breathe deeply. Inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, then exhale for eight seconds. Repeat this four times while using a fingertip to put mild pressure on the lid that's twitching.

Over-the-counter artificial tears can also help ease the spasms, which dry eyes can exacerbate, says Anne Sumers, M.D., of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. If the twitching spreads to other parts of your face, see a physician—it could be a more serious type of spasm.

Stress and your body: Acne
Just like your hair, your skin is sensitive to those higher-than-normal androgens, which can bring on breakouts, says Sengelmann. Talk to your dermatologist if your zits keep coming back—the chronic inflammation can lead to scarring.

Oral and topical prescription medications, as well as certain soaps, can help unplug pores and wipe out the bacteria that cause acne. Your dermatologist might also suggest you go on birth control, or switch up what you're already on, to balance out your hormones. And be sure to stick to non-comedogenic (i.e., non-pore-clogging) makeup, moisturizers, and sunscreen.
 ~ parts adapted via Women's Health

What stress symptoms can you see in your own life?

Stress and Your Body: Love Your Body