The human body was designed with an innate ability to respond to stress. It helps us flee from danger and adapt to changing situations. However, when stress becomes chronic and we are in a constant fight-or-flight mode, the impact of stress can wreak havoc on our mind and body.
When you are in a stressful state, your muscles can become tense, blood pressure may rise, heart rate could increase, immune system can decline, digestive system may break down, sleep patterns could change, and any existing health problems can become more aggravated. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
The Bizarre Ways You May Be Impacted by Stress
Yet stress can also affect you in ways that you may not even notice. The impact of stress could:
Make Your Swimmers Lose Steam
It’s best to learn to manage stress if you and your partner are trying to have a baby, because it can affect both of you equally.
Women who are feeling extremely stressed while ovulating are substantially less likely to conceive during that month. It doesn’t help matters that as more months go by without conceiving, the more stressed out she may feel during ovulation. The impact of stress is so powerful that even trauma experienced during childhood could potentially harm her chances of conceiving later on in life.
Stress can also diminish sperm concentration and semen quality, impairing the ability to fertilize an egg. Fortunately, in most cases, healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and reduced stress levels can all help to speed things up, so to speak.
Alter Your Bank Account
It may seem that people have a tendency to splurge during stressful times, but shopping therapy is actually more of a myth than a trend. Instead, consumers are more likely to go into survival mode and hold on to their wallets more tightly than usual. During periods of stress we typically stick to purchasing only the essentials and items we think may help to restore a sense of control.
Change Your Appearance
No, stress does not turn you into a Transformer. (Though that would be pretty neat, wouldn’t it?) However, if you are wondering why you have acne as an adult when you barely had it as a teenager, it could be due to the impact of stress. When someone is under stress, their cortisol levels rise, causing an increase in oil production and potentially leading to dermatologic problems such as oily skin and acne. Other skin conditions, including eczema, rosacea, acne and psoriasis, can all be triggered by the body’s response to stress.
Take Your Hair
Speaking of your appearance, that bald spot you see in the mirror may have more to do with stress than with genetics. (Just ask any woman who has recently given birth.) During and briefly after a period of stress, your hair may begin to thin and fall out, though it usually grows back afterwards. If that stress goes from traumatic to chronic, however, the body may not return to its norm.
Of course, other factors can cause hair loss too, such as lack of nutrition or a medical issue. Yet it is believed that stress may be the primary reason for unexplained hair loss.
Change Your Friendships
Believe it or not, the way you view your friends may be impacted by stress. Moderate stress makes us feel more inclined to bond with our pals. These social interactions raise our oxytocin levels, making us happier and more resilient. Serious or even life-threatening stress makes us avoid socializing with others. This type of stress makes us to be alone, which lowers our oxytocin levels and reduces the ability to cope. So keep those buddies around, even when they are driving you nuts. After all, they may be good for your health!
Give You Heartburn
You probably already know that when you are stressed out it seems that no food will agree with your stomach, to put it nicely. In fact, several different gastrointestinal disorders can be traced to stress-related issues.
Moving on up in the body, heartburn can also be attributed to stress. People who have anxiety and other stress-related disorders tend to have more esophageal hypersensitivity.
Make You Lose Your Mind
Can’t remember when that report is due or what you ate for lunch yesterday? That may be due to the impact of stress. Believe it or not, prolonged periods of stress can wipe out pieces of your memory. There’s a molecule in our brains that’s responsible for controlling our cognitive abilities. When triggered by stress, an enzyme may attack that molecule, causing it to malfunction leading us to become distracted and forgetful.
While under intense stress it becomes substantially more difficult to learn, because an increase in cortisol suppresses the brain’s ability to process new information. Stress can also foster riskier behavior by repressing our ability to control our impulses. Daredevils beware!
Age You More Rapidly
Have you ever wondered why some people look ten years older than their actual age? It could be due to unfortunate genetics, an unhealthy lifestyle, or they may have endured a few serious bumps in the road. They may also have a trifecta of all three factors.
Chronic stress can accelerate the physical aging process. The outermost part of our chromosomes is called the telomere. As we age, our telomeres shorten in length. Telomeres, therefore, have become a measure of our longevity. Studies have shown that telomere shortening can also be caused by oxidative stress, as well as inflammation and increased cortisol levels, both of which can be the result of chronic stress.
Here’s the good news. Studies are beginning to show that lifestyle changes may be able to lengthen telomeres. Healthy diets, regular exercise, stress management and social support can be just what the body needs to halt rapid aging. Scientists are even working to find a procedure that may reverse telomere shortening, turning back the biological clock.
Make You Sick (Yikes!)
Think this sounds a bit exaggerated? Think again. A recent study found that prolonged exposure to work-related stress has been associated with an increased risk of lung, colon, breast, rectal, and stomach cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
You should know that stress alone does not cause cancer, though the impact of stress may inhibit the body’s ability to fight cancer. This should be enough of a reason to reduce your stress levels or focus on having effective stress management techniques at the ready.
Stress truly can impact all areas of our lives. Learning to reduce or manage chronic stress is the key to not letting it wreak havoc. Eat nutritious foods, exercise, take a walk, meditate, and do whatever it is that suits you in order to feel less stressed out!
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