Stress Series, Part 2: This is your body on stress

Stress Series, Part 2: This Is Your Body on Stress

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by Fawn Faletego

Continued from Part 1, Stress series, What is it?

Does the following sound at all familiar?

She had trouble falling asleep again last night, so this morning she made multiple trips to the caffeine refueling station to help her slog through another day at work.

She rushed to meet the deadlines she had been putting off all month, but even when she did find the motivation to try and finish, her attention quickly darted elsewhere.  She felt scatterbrained and so unfocused.

She would ask her husband to pick up dinner on the way home (something ‘bad’) which she looked forward to eating because it was the only time she felt calm.  Problems came with the territory of the job, she figured, and instead of dealing with the stress, she self-medicated using her taste buds.  As 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon would say, “I’m going to talk to some food about this later.”

And she had already made up her mind that the lack of sleep and worrying about tomorrow’s presentation would be enough reason not to engage in lovemaking tonight, although to be honest, she hadn’t felt in the ‘mood’ for over a year.

The true tragedy was that she didn’t recognize she had been sliding downhill in her reaction to the daily stress she was experiencing.  In fact, feeling stressed out became her new normal. Bad decisions were made in an effort to cope with the stress, but it all felt ‘normal.’  This was life, and so it goes.

For some people, stress controls their lives, and they don’t even realize to what extent it has affected them.  Problems may bubble up and be viewed as isolated character flaws, or a physical ailment that might not be associated with stress.  Yet stress can be a masterful conductor that drives so many emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms to wreak havoc on your body, mind and spirit.

There is a reason why presidents seem to always go grey while still in office, and why Air Traffic Controllers are forced by the Federal Aviation Administration to retire by age 56: Stress is no joke.

If you find that any of these symptoms below describe you in your daily life, the first step is realization of the power that stress can have over its effect on your physical body, and the negative ways in which you may be coping with it.

Your body on stress:

  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles (i.e. backache, headaches
  • Change in sex drive, erectile dysfunction, loss of sexual desire
  • Chest pain, heart palpitations, rapid heartbeat
  • Decreased or suppressed immunity, frequent colds and infections
  • Linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer
  • Fatigue, insomnia, low energy
  • Hair loss, telogen effluvium
  • Intestinal problems, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation
  • Jaw clenching, teeth grinding (bruxism), TMJ, gum disease, gingivitis, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, fever blisters
  • Nausea, dizziness, nervousness, shaking, ringing in ears, cold and sweaty hands and feet

Your mood because of stress:

  • Loneliness, isolation, avoiding others
  • Feeling of pessimism, insecurity, low self-esteem
  • Anxiety, depression, sadness
  • Feeling overwhelmed, losing control
  • Forgetfulness, disorganization, poor judgment
  • Irritability, short temper, agitated easily, frustrated, moodiness
  • Lack of motivation, inability to focus, racing thoughts
  • Burnout, restlessness, unable to relax, constant worrying

Your behavioral reaction to stress:

  • Angry outbursts, crying spells
  • Appetite changes, overeating or under eating
  • Nervous habits and behaviors, nail biting, fidgeting, pacing, plucking out hair (ex. Trichotillomania)
  • Procrastinating, avoiding responsibilities, distraction
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Insomnia, oversleeping
  • Social withdrawal, isolation from others
  • Using alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to cope and relax

There are plenty of things you can do in your quest to change like paying attention to ingredients for mindful living, working on living in the now, exploring intuitive eating habits, or just slowing down your information diet to help cope with our crazy world. If you find these things are all pieces of your own life or someone you know, you can make a counseling appointment so we can help you or them get back on the right track. If you would like more information about what our counseling process entails, you can read about depression counseling, anxiety counseling, and personal growth counseling.