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STRESS: making ups and downs of your mood?

Life is full of failures and success. We enjoy our success or we lament our failure or take it as a lesson and move ahead in our journey. 

These days most of us face stress in some form or the other – Work Stress, Relationship stress, Stress due to social media, Financial stress, and Health Stress and so on. But some people are able to handle stress effectively or are able to recover from it quickly 

People who are under stress can be seen feeling easily agitated, frustrated, and moody, a feeling of low self-esteem. 

How to know if you are under stress?
You may feel anxious, irritable, or low in self-esteem, and you may have racing thoughts, worry constantly, or go over things in your head. You may notice that you lose your temper more easily, drink more, or act unreasonably. You may also experience headaches, muscle tension or pain, or dizziness. There is a feeling like you are losing control or need to take control or have difficulty in relaxing and quieting your mind and is known as a defeat response.

Stress Markers:
The stress markers increase in blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate and levels of muscle tension which are felt when a person undergoes stress.

Type of Stress: 
Stress can be acute and chronic. Remember when we get stuck in a traffic jam or had an argument with our spouse or receive some criticism from our boss – Well these are examples of Acute Stress. This is short-lived and it can help us to perform better and pushes the individual towards the goal achievement. Our body is smart enough to handle this acute stress.

When you start getting stuck in the same traffic every day when your fight with your spouse is regular and your boss is constantly criticizing you that’s when chronic stress comes in and our body is not so good at handling this and leads to severe impact on the overall health. 

What happens in stress?
Imagine a threat (stressor) like you are driving a vehicle and a speeding vehicle comes towards you from the opposite direction. At this moment Hypothalamus which is situated in your brain sets off your alarm signaling the adrenal gland to release– Adrenaline, Cortisol which when released for a long time lead to...
  • Lowered BMI 
  • Increase in Fat Storage 
  • Increase risk of hypertension
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Impacts Immune System
  • Suppression of inflammation process 
After some point in time, the body starts developing resistance to cortisol hence putting it a risk of infection.

Impact of Stress on Brain:
Chronic stress can cause a change in brain structure and its functions making it either resilient or very vulnerable to mental disease leading to anxiety and mood change. It also kills the brain cell hence impacting memory as it is said to have a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. When the intensity of stress passes beyond a predetermined threshold (which is different in each individual), it causes cognitive disorders, especially in memory and judgment.

Stress and Immune System:
Our body has White blood cells (WBC) whose main role is fighting off antigens. Lymphocytes are a type of WBC that takes care of this fighting. When a person experiences chronic stress it leads to a reduction in the number of Lymphocytes hence weakening our immune system which is manifested by signs like frequent cold, infections, digestive problems, delayed wound healing, skin infections, fatigue, and many more.

Does stress affect our Sleep?
YES, it does !! Stress affects the quality of sleep and its duration. It causes awakenings during the night. People feel their sleep is less restful. In fact, people who take small naps in between are at an advantage as they help to reduce stress and strengthen the immune system.

Stress and Cardio-Vascular Health:
Chronic stress may lead to an increase in blood pressure which is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. People who smoke, indulge in overeating and don’t involve in physical exercise as much are at risk of cardiovascular disease. Stress has been seen to lower the good “HDL” cholesterol in addition to your good food eating habits going for a toss and leading to an increase in weight which leads to the risk of heart disease.

Stress affects your tummy: 
Our brain & spinal cord is part of the central nervous system. The gut ( also called the second brain ) is lined up with a part of this nervous system called the enteric nervous system. 100 million nerve cells of this entric system line up our gastrointestinal tract from your esophagus to your rectum regulating our process like:
  • Swallowing 
  • The release of enzymes to break down food
  • The categorization of food as nutrients or waste products
Stress can significantly impact the way your body carries out these processes. Stress can cause either poor digestion leading to bloating, pain and constipation or it can lead to speed up digestion causing diarrhoea while some lose their appetite all together This can also cause worse digestion problems like stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.

Ways to manage Stress:
  • Early to bed, Early to rise, make you healthy (wealthy and wise)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Meditate
  • Eat Wisely
  • Take with your friends and family
  • Do what you like
  • Try to be organized 

Stress is Internal, not external. Control your mind to control your stress 

We all are affected by Stress. When we school our kids, during busy day work or while managing finance or trying to overcome a challenge in a relationship. A little bit of stress is OK as it can help us to perform better but when it increases then is the time to step in and fight it. Look out for symptoms like feeling fatigued, mood change, bloating and others, and consult your doctor for the same. Practice time management and yoga to fight it off.

Reference : J. 2017; 16: 1057–1072

Disclaimer : 
All images, visuals are used for representation purposes. We do not claim any copyright over these images. 

Content Credit: Rajneesh Negi