Stress can be very useful. It ramps up our body’s performance and helps us do what needs to be done in critical moments. In the process, it redirects our energy and reshapes the function of our body to make all necessary resources available in the moment.
But just as acute stress can be very valuable, chronic stress can be bad for the body. In fact, chronic stress is sometimes described as “toxic” stress because of the way that it can affect your overall health.
Here are some of the ways that chronic stress can impact your body.
Your heart and blood vessels are one of the most important systems in your body impacted by stress. Stress has to impact your heart and blood vessels, because these need to be able to deliver the oxygen and nutrients your body needs to function. So stress will increase your heart rate and cause some of your blood vessels to dilate, increasing the supply of blood.
When a stressful event ends, these effects should reverse. But if you experience chronic stress, the demands on your heart and blood vessels continues. This can lead to an increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Over time, you might develop irregular heart rhythms, an increased demand for oxygen. You may then start to experience chest pain and difficulty breathing. Eventually, you may experience a heart attack or heart failure.
We’ve known for a long time that stress can impact the immune system. During stressful events, inflammation could be a liability, so the body suppresses inflammation at these times. The body also produces fewer infection-fighting cells, saving the resources for other needs.
Over the long term, this can put the body at increased risk for infection. And, paradoxically, the body becomes accustomed to higher levels of inflammation-suppressing compounds, which can lead to more chronic inflammation.
In stressful situations, the body draws energy away from your digestive system. This is good because you don’t want to be focused on food when you have more important things to think about. And your digestive system can take up a considerable amount of the body’s resources in terms of blood and oxygen supply. During stressful situations, you want those resources to be available to your brain and muscles.
Chronic stress can suppress the appetite or make us choose unhealthy foods that promise quick energy over nutritive foods that can be more demanding to digest. It can also change the pace at which we digest foods, leading to constipation or diarrhea. And chronic stress can increase our pain sensitivity, making us more susceptible to conditions like inflammatory bowels syndrome (IBS).
Ostensibly, the nervous system benefits from a high stress state. It gets more of the resources it needs, including heightened sensory input. But over time, this heightened state can cause damage to the nervous system.
One of the vital structures that experiences damage is the hippocampus. This vital memory structure is also one of the key regions impacted in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
In addition, when the brain is focused on constantly dealing with the stresses it already faces, it doesn’t have the plasticity to identify and deal with new threats.
As with the digestive system, the reproductive system tends to have energy removed from it during stressful situations. The body is saying that it has no time for love.
Chronic stress can lead to a low libido for both men and women. For men, stress can also impact sperm production. For women, stress can affect menstruation, premenstrual syndrome intensity, and all stages of pregnancy, from conception to postpartum recovery, with chronic stress having a measurable effect on the amniotic fluid.
Don’t Let Stress Run Your Life
These days, we all face stress in our lives. You might think that you have no choice but to roll with it, and accept the stress as it comes. However, thanks to NuCalm, stress is always a choice. NuCalm can shut down your body’s stress response, interrupting the cycle of chronic stress and helping your body deal more effectively with the stressful events in your life.
Don’t let stress run your life. Take back control with NuCalm.