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Stress & Wellness

How Does Stress Affect Physical Wellness?

Your physical and emotional health are not discrete entities. Mind and body affect and feed on one another, and stress strongly affects your overall physical wellness. Long-term stress can bring about significant changes in your body, and even extreme, short-term stress can temporarily decrease overall health. In a fast-paced, high-stress world, it's vital to develop coping skills so that you can avoid the serious health impacts of chronic stress.

Sleep Problems

Chronic stress can interfere with sleep, resulting in insomnia or excessive sleeping. Sleep directly affects almost every area of health. Insufficient sleep can lead to difficulty fighting infection, increased risk of obesity and an elevated risk of heart and lung problems. Moreover, insufficient sleep can negatively affect your mental health, leading to depression and anxiety and exacerbating chronic stress.

Digestive Problems

Indigestion, constipation and diarrhoea are more common during times of stress. When your body is focused on dealing with a perceived threat, your immunity to intestinal bacteria decreases, and your digestive system is less efficient at processing food and absorbing its nutrients. This can lead to a host of digestive problems including heartburn, constipation and diarrhoea and make it difficult for your body to utilise all of the nutrients in the foods you eat.

Endocrine System Problems

The endocrine system is made up of hormone-secreting glands that control a huge variety of bodily functions including metabolism, reproduction and stress response. This system plays an important role in the fight or flight response by releasing adrenaline and cortisol. However, if the endocrine system is constantly overtaxed by stress, it may be less efficient at regulating bodily functions. Your risk of endocrine problems such as hypothyroidism increases with your level of stress, and endocrine problems increase your risk of obesity. Stress also increases the endocrine system's production of stress-related hormones such as adrenaline, according to the textbook "Biology: Life on Earth with Physiology." Chronic stress can cause your body to overproduce these hormones, resulting in a feedback loop of increased stress, increased production of stress hormones and even stronger feelings of stress.

What is internal and external stress?
There are two kinds of stress: external and internal stress.

External stress comes from outside us:
  • Our physical environment
  • Our job
  • Noise – loud and constant low level noise
  • Pollution
  • Trauma
  • Injury
  • Foreign organisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi)
  • Toxins
  • Poor work conditions (not enough attention paid to ergonomics, too much noise, poor air circulation, lack of privacy, excess demands, etc).
  • Relationships with others
  • Our home,
  • All the situations, challenges, difficulties, and expectations we're confronted with on a daily basis.
Internal stress comes from inside of us and determine our body's ability to respond to, and deal with, the external stress-inducing factors or stressors:
  • Nutritional status
  • Attitudes
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings of anger, fear and worry
  • Anticipation
  • Imagination
  • Memory
  • Overall health and fitness levelsPresence of illness and infection
  • Emotional well-being
  • Amount of sleep and rest you get.
Managing stress can involve making changes in the external factors which confront you, or in internal factors which strengthen your ability to deal with what comes your way.

External stress is often associated with:
  • Workplace stress
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Relationship / marital stress
  • Balancing career and family
  • Being a parent
  • Your kids and stress. Children are a great joy and a great source of stress! Accept your kids for who and what they are. Realise that you’re human and your kids know it – don’t try to be a perfect parent, partner or employee. Just try your best and ask for help. Delegate. Let them learn from you and then go their own way. Parenthood is not about control. It’s about freedom.
Kids also have stress. They react differently to stress than do grown-ups! Be on the look-out for:
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Lack of need for social interactionMore moodiness than usual
  • Dramatic or inexplicable deterioration in academic or sport performance
Internal stress management can help to prepare your body to handle internal stressors more effectively:

Healthy nutrition and using the correct food supplements to help you cope with stress
Dealing with anger, fear, anxiety and worry
Developing a positive mental attitude
Exercising moderately, but frequently

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