Last Updated on October 19, 2020
Today the term ‘preppers’ has a negative connotation because most people associate it with the so-called doomsday preppers instead of what it really is – people who actively prepare for emergencies. No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, we can all agree that we are living in stressful times. Earlier, people only worried about their jobs and their families but according to the American Psychological Association, the most common cause for stress today is the future of our nation. This is followed by money, work, our political climate and the rise in crime – that’s plenty of stress! This does not mean that you should stop preparing for what may lie ahead– it’s important to safeguard your future. However, while you’re doing that, you could also take steps to protect yourself from the stress caused by these issues since stress can affect your physical and mental health.
Health Problems Triggered by Stress
Stress is a natural human response when dealing with dangerous or challenging situations. However, when we allow ourselves to remain in a state of constant stress, it has an impact on our physical and mental health and can result in multiple health problems. Studies show that a whopping 77 percent of people in the US regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Most of us ignore these physical symptoms because they seem so trivial but they can take a toll on your physical and mental health if you continue to ignore them. Here are 8 of the most common health problems triggered by stress:
You’re used to popping a Tums after a heavy meal or even a large snack and you’ve never given it a second thought. When you have acid reflux or heartburn, the acids from your stomach rise up into your food pipe (esophagus). These strong stomach acids then damage the valve that prevents them from moving further up which is why you experience that burning sensation in your chest. After a while, the valve is so badly damaged that it cannot function properly and you will then develop GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) which is typically a permanent health problem. Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol increases the acid in your stomach which is why frequent heartburn could be a sign of constant stress.
There are 2 main ways in which stress increases your risk of catching the common cold – 1) slows down your immune system 2) disrupts your sleep which increases your susceptibility to the virus. Chronic stress results in the constant production of cortisol. This overproduction of cortisol results in the ‘de-sensitizing’ of the immune system to cortisol. This affects your body’s immune response to a pathogen which makes it more likely that you will come down with a cold. Cortisol also affects your sleep patterns. An American study found that people who sleep for fewer than 7 hours per night are nearly three times more likely to develop the common cold when they come in contact with the virus as compared to individuals who slept for at least 8 hours every night.
Most people think that they make poor food choices due to their lack of self-control. However, this is not entirely true as stress plays a key role in weight gain. When you are stressed out, you are more likely to reach for high carb foods such as pastries, cookies, cake and muffins. Eating carbs makes your body produce more serotonin – the feel good hormone. To add to this, the stress hormone cortisol is also responsible for fat storage in the body as well as increasing appetite. This is why people who are constantly stressed are more likely to gain weight.
High Blood Sugar
Stress sends your body into a fight or flight response which means that your body ensures that you have sufficient energy (in the form of sugar) to fight or flee from impending danger. This response triggers the release of glucose from your liver. It also blocks your body from releasing insulin and causes your body tissues to become less sensitive to insulin –so you have more glucose available in your blood. If you remain stressed for a prolonged period, your sugar levels will rise which will increase your risk of diabetes.
High Blood Pressure
Stress does not directly cause hypertension but it can have an effect on the development of this condition. When you are in a stressful situation, your body’s production of several hormones surge. The elevated levels of these hormones causes your blood vessels to narrow which results in a temporary increase in blood pressure. This is why you can feel your heart beating faster whenever you get stressed. Although stress does not cause high blood pressure, the frequent spikes in blood pressure can damage the blood vessels and kidneys and can also lead to heart disease.
Stress causes the release of hormones that impact the entire body, including the immune system. Studies show that stress increases the risk of asthma exacerbation’s due to changes in immune function. An asthmatic attack can make you feel stressed which in turn can aggravate your asthma symptoms which is why asthma and stress can make for a vicious cycle that can spiral downwards very quickly. If you notice an increase in asthmatic attacks for no obvious reason, it could be due to increased stress.
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
Stress triggers the body’s fight or flight response which affects the gastrointestinal tract. This is why people who are stressed often feel a heavy sensation in their gut. Stress can cause IBS symptom flare-ups and can also increase the severity of the symptoms. Since IBS is a stress-sensitive disorder, doctors treating IBS patients often recommend stress management. If you notice an increased frequency of IBS flare-ups, it could be linked to your stress levels.
Depression and Anxiety
Stress can have a significant impact on mental health as stress hormones cause brain disturbances thought to underlie certain types of depression. Studies show that stress can cause depression and anxiety and that stress reduction is vital for people with depression and anxiety. People who have depression or anxiety disorders may notice mood and emotion changes whenever they get stressed.
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