Understanding why Stress Can Make Us Ill and What We Can Do To Beat Stress

You are better able to manage and beat stress when you understand how stress works. This article aims to give you a better understanding of your body’s needs and why when stress hits, you must ‘act’.

If you hate the situation you presently find yourself in or are worrying about an upcoming event, it is likely you are feeling stressed. Your pulse might be racing; you may be experiencing stomach upset, headache, rapid breathing, and lack of concentration. If it is bedtime your mind may be racing so much that you’re unable to sleep etc.

The symptoms caused by ‘stress’ are wide ranging and Doctors now believe that stress is one of the main causes of poor health. Beating stress and learning to live with stress is thus very important if we are to ensure that it doesn’t make us ill long term.

Good Stress

Not all stress is bad for us though. When we feel excited about something good, our pulse might race and we are ‘stressed’ but this is good stress and the chemicals produced by the body at this time have a beneficial impact on us. These chemicals include endorphins, serotonin and dopamine etc.

When good stress meets bad stress

Fight, Flight, Freeze

Another form of ‘good stress’ is stress that prepares us for necessary action. If we are in a difficult situation that requires us to fight or run away (flight) such as an intruder entering our home, the body’s state alters and various chemicals are released, such as adrenalin. These physical changes prepare us for the extra strength and energy required to deal with the situation. Once the situation has been dealt with and we have acted upon our body’s call for a fight or flight reaction, body functions return to normal.

Other changes the body goes through when under stress:

  • Chemicals are released such as such as adrenalin
  • Heart rate goes up
  • Blood vessels dilate
  • Breathing becomes rapid
  • We produce more  sweat
  • Our Metabolism slows down
  • Our Muscles become tense
  • Our Pupils dilate
  • We release less sex  hormones

This good stress turns to bad stress and affects our health only when for whatever reason we are not able to take the action that our body is preparing us for. For example:

Shelly is being bullied at work by her employer.

Shelly feels very anxious and afraid due to being bullied but is unable to remove herself from the situation. She doesn’t complain or retaliate in anyway. She feels stressed and because the situation is ongoing and one she faces daily, her health begins to suffer. She doesn’t sleep or eat well and she experiences headaches and stomach upsets.

The ongoing nature of Shelly’s stress and her inability to take action, results in her body’s stress reaction becoming harmful. Shelly experiences ‘bad stress’.

Other ‘bad stress’ symptoms Shelly might experience include:

  • Feeling unduly tired, low energy levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Other aches and pains
  • Low immune system resulting in more colds, viruses
  • Low sex drive
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Increased alcohol/cigarette consumption

If you find yourself in a stressful situation it is very important that you find ways to stop the stress reaction and this involves taking positive action to avoid, prevent, or eliminate the source of stress.

Not all stressful situations can be dealt with, for example exam stress might not be alleviated until the exams are over. In cases like these you need to learn how to manage your stress.

Stress can be managed in many ways i.e.:

  • Exercise at home or the gym
  • A brisk walk
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises
  • Learning how to say ‘no’
  • Managing your time better
  • Surrounding yourself with positive people
  • Laughter/smile therapy

Exercise is a good way to return the body to a ‘normal state’. You are taking action which is what the body is preparing you for when the stress reaction occurs.

When stress hits, act positively to stop or manage it.