Stress has both positive and negative ramifications. When we come through in a pinch, put together that great presentation for work at the last minute, or increase our study time in response to an upcoming test at school, stress is the driving force behind our improvement. If it wasn’t for stress, we might not accomplish anything. When stress becomes chronic, lasting for long periods of time without any moments of rest or relaxation, serious physical or psychological problems can result. Some of these include:
Anxiety or Depressive Disorder
Research suggests a link between high sensitivity to stress and the onset of serious anxiety and depression. Chronic stress can seriously diminish our ability to enjoy life, accomplish our goals, and maintain healthy relationships, all of which can affect our emotional well-being.
Heart Disease and Stroke
A link has been shown between acute stress, heart disease, and stroke. The physiological stress response has serious affects on the heart and circulatory system, increasing heart rate and restricting the arteries. Over time, this action can lead to serious physical side effects including cardiac events such as heart attacks.
People have different ways of coping with stress, and one way is to eat too much or too little. While this is sometimes emotionally motivated, it appears that it may be a physical response as well. Studies show that the stress hormone cortisol causes an increase in abdominal fat. In serious cases, some people turn to eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder to help them cope.
Stress is one of the main factors in sleep difficulty. When a person is experiencing chronic stress or overwork, they often find it almost impossible to relax both mentally and physically. As they lose sleep, their body and mind are put under even more stress, which only adds to the problem.
Concentration and Memory
Chronic and acute stress can cause difficulty with concentration and memory. Studies show that individuals subjected to stress have more difficulty with short-term and verbal memory, and stress makes it much more difficult to pay attention to detail, causing careless accidents and problems with work or academic demands.
Chronic pain can be intensified by stressful experiences. Emotional distress has been linked to heightened sensitivity to arthritis and back pain. Physical tension can cause muscle pains and headaches, and this, too, can be intensified by emotional stress.
Stress contributes to such problems as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and inflammatory bowel disease. Even if these disorders don’t develop, people under a lot of stress often experience mild to moderate stomach discomfort, nausea, constipation or diarrhea.
Even though it can seem nearly impossible to slow down and de-stress, it’s important for maintaining physical and emotional health and balance.