Alyssa Duff ’19, Website Editor/ Social Media Manager
We have heard it all our lives: stress is bad for your health. But what are really the effects of stress on your body? Headaches, sleep problems, anxiety, and a weakened immune system are just the beginning.
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Have a big test coming up? Do you have a headache that has been present for a while? These are called tension headaches. Most often caused by stress, tension headaches account for 90 percent of all headaches. While medicine such as ibuprofen will temporarily help, there is an underlying issue: stress. According to Excedrin, “When people are stressed, they often tighten their neck and shoulders. Tense muscles in the back of the neck and even in the scalp can cause the ‘vice-like’ compression many people use to describe stress-headaches.” Even though you may not be tensing up muscles, even clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth can cause a headache on its own. A study conducting by Doctor Sara Schramm found that with every 10 percent increase in people’s stress level there is a 6.3 percent more chance of getting a headache. On average, tension headaches occur one to two times a month, but chronic tension headaches can have episodes lasting up to 15 days. According to the Cleveland Clinic, chronic headaches affect about three percent of America’s population. No one enjoys the constant pain of a tension headache. But next time before taking out the ibuprofen, take out the yoga mat, try to relax, and loosen those shoulders.
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It is four a.m., and you are laying in bed staring at your ceiling, just wishing you could fall asleep. Maybe you are just not tired, or maybe you just cannot get comfy, but most likely you are stressed out. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and an additional 20 million report sleeping problems occasionally. Feeling overly stressed does not allow for your brain to relax in order to get the proper sleep that is needed. But unfortunately, this is a constant cycle. If you do not sleep enough at night, your body boosts its levels of stress hormones. The brain chemicals connected with deep sleep are the same ones that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones. Not getting the right amount of sleep can lead to memory loss, trouble concentrating, high blood pressure, mood changes, weakened immune system, risk for diabetes, weight gain, and higher risk of heart disease. I know you have heard it all your life: getting proper sleep is more important than you think, but it really is. A lack of sleep, especially from stress, can lead to serious health problems in the future. So, as hard as it may be try to turn off your brain before going to sleep, finding a hobby that is relaxing and then completing it before bed can definitely help.
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Everyone experiences stress and anxiety in their life, but the difference is stress is the response to an event and anxiety is the reaction of stress. While anxiety can assist in overcoming challenging situations, it can become a serious issue when it begins to interfere with daily life. Anxiety can be accompanied by nausea, muscle tension, headaches, rapid breathing, fast heartbeat, sweating, shaking dizziness, change in appetite, trouble sleeping, and/or fatigue. While these may not be all of the symptoms accompanying stress, they are the most common. Prolonged anxiety can cause lifelong health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and more. So even though it may only seem like a temporary state of anxiety, it can have major impacts on health. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, realizing you cannot control everything, writing down your feelings, and trying to maintain a positive attitude can play a huge role in managing anxiety.
Weakened immune system:
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In the early 1980s, psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and immunologist Ronald Glaser of the Ohio State University College of Medicine, were intrigued by the link between stress and infection. From 1982 through 1992, they studied medical students. Among other things, they found that the students’ immunity went down every year under the simple stress of the three-day exam period. Test takers had fewer natural killer cells, which fight tumors and viral infections. They almost stopped producing immunity-boosting gamma interferon and infection-fighting T-cells responded only weakly to test-tube stimulation. Stress can have a medical affect on your body which in return will cause you to catch a sickness, even if it is just a cold. So if you are stressed, do not be surprised if you come down with something. If you are feeling particularly stressed, do not be afraid to take vitamin supplements in order to boost your immune system, but also try to relax and realize everything will turn out as it is supposed to, even if that is hard to believe.
Even though stress might seem like a minuscule problem in your busy schedule, it can have major impacts on your future. So stress sparingly and do not sweat the small things.
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