The adverse effects of stress
Our stress hormones trigger our body’s fight or flight response, which is designed to protect us in an emergency, by preparing us to act quickly. If these stress responses are firing day after day, this can put our health and mental well-being at serious risk.
When we are stressed, our muscles tense up to protect themselves from the injury of a perceived threat. As the feelings of stress subside, our muscles can relax again. If we are frequently under stress though, our muscles will remain tense, causing jaw ache, headaches, shoulder and back pain. An unhealthy cycle can develop, where tight muscles discourage us from exercising, and we instead turn to pain relief to try to ease our niggles.
Did you know that the immune system is stimulated when we are stressed?
In the short term, this can help us to avoid infections and help to heal wounds. Over time though, stress weakens our immune system, leaving us susceptible to cold sores and warts, as well as viruses, such as the common cold and flu. A weakened immune system also means that healing time is longer and more drawn out.
Chronic stress can also make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, affect libido and fertility, and increase blood pressure and the risk of a heart attack. We’re also more likely to turn to caffeine, alcohol and processed, sugary foods when we feel tired and overwhelmed, which in the long run can make us feel sluggish and down.
Also, if you are stressed, you may clench your jaw or grind your teeth. Remember that your teeth are not normally supposed to touch, so you can easily double-check whether your jaw is relaxed!