We all suffer from stress, and as part of a normal healthy lifestyle it’s nothing to be worried about. The problems start when the stress starts to take over, so you feel constantly tense and anxious. Stress causes hormones to be released into the bloodstream that enable you to deal with challenging or threatening situations, but if your stress becomes a long-term problem, your body will be experiencing a constant drip feed of hormones that it is not designed to cope with on a continual basis. If your stress becomes chronic, it can lead to several worrying health issues.
Before you assume this doesn’t apply to you, stop and have a think for a moment. You may not have been snorting coke every night, but have you been putting away a few glasses of wine of an evening, or knocking back a few more G & Ts than normal? Have you been putting off stopping smoking, or maybe even having a few extra cigarettes? Have you had to see the doctor for anxiety meds or anti-depressants? All these examples could be related to having chronic stress, and all will be harmful to your health and wellbeing. If you have picked up any kind of drug habit into the bargain, don’t delay or pretend you haven’t got a problem, get yourself booked into a drug detox program before the situation gets any worse.
Stress can cause a number of side effects that are so insidious you may not even notice them creeping up on you. You’ll probably be feeling tired and irritable, and notice an increase in the incidence of headaches and perhaps difficulty getting a good night’s sleep, and your friends and family may well notice changes in your mood. Under the surface, other changes will be having a negative effect on your health, such as elevated blood pressure and heart disease, obesity and eating disorders, digestive problems including indigestion, acid reflux and irritable bowel, skin problems and hair loss, sexual dysfunction, and menstrual problems. There will also be effects on your mental health, cognitive processing, behaviour and emotional wellbeing, and these will only get worse over time if you don’t take steps to manage your stress.
You’ll find a wealth of resources online and at your local library giving advice on how to manage your stress and reduce its harmful effects. The fundamental requirement is to find ways to relax and let go of your worries on a regular basis. How you achieve this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so you may have to try a range of options including lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques and meditation, exercise and physical activity, learning to take time out, talking therapies with friends or professional counsellors, and in some cases medication to get you started.
If you notice any signs of stress, or you are generally feeling below par, don’t ignore the symptoms. The issue won’t resolve itself without you taking action, so find the methods of relaxing that work for you before stress ruins your life.