If you’ve ever asked someone how they’re feeling, the phrase “I’m a bit stressed” is not an unusual response. In fact, according to a recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation, a staggering 74% of adults in the UK reported feeling so stressed that they felt ‘overwhelmed or unable to cope’. But while this is a seemingly normal feeling, prolonged stress can really take its toll.
But Stress is Normal, Right?
While periodic bouts of stress are something experienced by most people, research has shown that chronic stress can have an impact on a variety of systems within the body.
Physically, stress can impact the immune system, the stomach, and even the possible development of diabetes and plaque build-up in the arteries. And that’s not even considering the mental impacts. This means it’s essential that we learn more about what stresses us out and how to handle it.
Why Do Humans Feel Stress?
The body’s response to stress is actually a natural phenomenon and stems from the age-old ‘fight or flight’ response our brain and body have to a threat.
The brain, when encountering a stressor, responds to stress by sending messages through the pituitary gland to the adrenals, which then release hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline. This results in a rise in blood pressure, along with a shot of glucose to your muscles. This provides energy that gets you moving and gives you the focus to tackle a problem at hand. Once the stressor has been alleviated, the body relaxes and returns to a normal state. Therefore, in some situations, stress can be a helpful thing.
4 Ways Stress Impacts Us
As we mentioned, the issues that chronic stress causes are many and varied, and each person might experience the effects of stress differently. What determines how we react to stress includes our physical health, genetics and even the people around us, and no two people react to stress the same. Broadly speaking; however, the impacts of stress fit into the below categories.
Physical effects of stress
There are plenty of physical symptoms of stress, aside from those we may already associate it with, such as headaches and a racing heart. Physical stress symptoms can also include:
- An upset stomach
- A clenched jaw, or bruxism (grinding of teeth)
- Frequent illnesses such as colds or other viruses
- Tense, aching muscles
- Cold, sweaty or clammy hands and feet
- A dry mouth
- Trouble swallowing
- Chest pain
Emotional effects of stress
Many of us will recognise the impact of stress on our emotions. Signs and symptoms of stress can manifest as:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Being unable to relax
- A racing mind
- Becoming more easily upset, frustrated or angry
- Low mood
Behavioural effects of stress
There are also certain behavioural changes that could signal that a person is stressed. These could include:
- Smoking or drinking more heavily than usual
- Loss or change in appetite
- Putting off tasks and avoiding responsibility
- Fidgeting more, and developing behaviours such as nail picking and nail biting
Cognitive effects of stress
Stress can even have a significant impact on our cognitive abilities. Signs of stress relating to cognition can include:
- Mind fog
- Constant worry
- Racing thoughts
The Long-Term Effects of Stress
The short-term symptoms of stress above can significantly impact a person’s life. However, these are only short-term issues that could present themselves when someone is under stress. Long-term chronic stress can have a far wider impact on a person’s physical and psychological health.
- The immune system: studies have shown that chronic stress can detrimentally impact the immune system. According to research, it can raise suppressor T-cell levels and catecholamine in the body, suppressing the immune system and leading to a higher risk of developing viral infections. While no link has currently been formed between stress and cancer, recent studies have found a link between stress and the suppression of cells that could prevent and destroy small metastases.
- Asthma sufferers: further to this, the histamine that is released when we experience stress can have an impact on the health of asthmatics and can cause severe bronchoconstriction.
- Diabetics: stress has also been shown to increase the risk for diabetes Mellitus since psychological health can impact a person’s insulin tolerance and needs.
- Stomach problems: stress can also change the acid levels in the stomach, which can lead to ulcers (both peptic and stress) or, in some cases, ulcerative colitis.
- Heart/circulatory problems: worryingly, chronic stress can even manifest in the arteries, leading to plaque build-up.
- Psychiatric illnesses: there is a strong link between stress and neuroses, as well as depression and schizophrenia.
As you can see, there are many important reasons to recognise and deal with stress early, rather than the ‘wait and see’ approach that some people may adopt.
How to Relieve and Prevent Stress
There are various methods for both preventing and relieving stress when it strikes, both in the short and long-term. As with most conditions, prevention is better than cure. Therefore, it’s vital that we find the strategies that work best for our unique needs. Examples of steps to take to prevent and relieve stress could include:
Just 10 minutes of daily meditation can have a significant impact on racing thoughts and anxiety, studies have shown. There are many guided meditation sessions available on streaming platforms, many of which are free, including the Pure Air Zone App.
Taking time for ourselves to do things we enjoy, whether that’s relaxing with a book or watching our favourite shows, pampering ourselves or meeting friends, can significantly impact our stress levels too.
Whether work colleagues ask you to take on some of their work or you’re feeling too stressed to attend an event, learning to say no is important. We cannot be everything to everyone, and setting boundaries is a healthy way to balance stress.
It might seem easier not to take on the task of cooking healthy, nutritious meals while stressed. However, plenty of quick-fix meals and snacks are available to allow you to eat well, no matter how time-short you are.
Many studies prove that exercise reduces stress hormones and stimulates the production of endorphins. A gentle daily walk can even have an impact on our mental and physical health.
Take a targeted supplement
Whether you believe stress has had an impact on you already, or you’re looking to prepare yourself for what you know will be a stressful period, a targeted supplement can help. However, not all supplements provide the same level of support. Look for one that contains ingredients which are proven to assist in stress prevention and reduction.
Hyper-U: the Stress-Busting Supplement
Hyper-U is a daily health supplement that’s designed to improve your body’s response to oxidative and mental stress.
The formula, which contains rhodiola, spirulina, and phycocyanin, has antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties can help to protect and focus the mind, reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and allergies while managing those all-important sugar levels. It can even help the nervous system to recover from periods of heavy stress, allowing them - and you - to function at your best.
Interested in learning more? Why not take a look at just how Hyper-U can help reduce and prevent the impact of stress on your brain and your body?