This past year has been highly stressful for everyone. Experiencing stress is a normal part of everyday life and can be experienced due to a range of factors from daily stressors to significant or rare stressful events.
Stress is characterised by the perceived inability to cope; some may be more prone than others depending on their personality type and situation. While the stress response has played an essential role in evolution, whereby it causes a hyper-alert psychological and physiological state, over activation of this mechanism can be detrimental to health.
So why is it important to reduce stress and how does repeated stress impact the body?
How does chronic stress impact the body?
Chronic stress can lead to a range of health conditions each varying in severity, such as:
Burnout Syndrome – Burnout syndrome is where you experience extreme psychological and physiological fatigue, characterised by significant mood changes and depression. Rest is essential to recover from burnout syndrome and may require a change in lifestyle factors to help reduce the persistent exposure to stress.
Mental health issues – Depression and anxiety can be caused by extensive stress, it’s important to seek professional help to get guidance on how to treat and manage these symptoms while stress-reducing techniques and solutions are implemented.
Unintended weight changes – Stress can disrupt diet and exercise leading to both unintended weight gain and loss. Both are not deemed healthy as they are not intended and therefore, exhibits a lack of control.
Sexual dysfunction – For men, erectile dysfunction may occur whereby, brain signals are interrupted due to stress. For women, sexual desire may decline due to anxiety caused by chronic stress.
Hair Loss – Usually hair loss due to stress is caused by a chronic stressful event rather than ongoing stress.
While these side effects of chronic stress are somewhat serious, it’s important to note that they are also a result of prolonged exposure to high levels of stress. If you think you are experiencing stress elevated above a “normal” level it’s important to seek advice to help avoid these adverse effects.
The extent to which these may be experienced are subject to individual differences and the level of stress experienced.
5 ways to reduce stress to improve your health
- Lifestyle changes – Reducing stress is most effectively achieved by addressing the primary source of stress. However, this may not be entirely practical, so you can also change elements of your lifestyle such as your daily routine, alcohol consumption, working hours or sleep quality.
- Exercise – Exercise can help with a range of psychological and physical health benefits, one of which being stress reduction. Endorphins are released during exercise which has a profound effect on improving mood and well-being.
- Meditation and Yoga – Meditation and yoga are really important ways to help reduce stress levels. Meditation helps relaxation through mindfulness. Yoga involves controlled body movements, stretching and self-awareness to aid relaxation.
- General Health – Looking after general health is often disregarded as an important factor to consider when we think about what is contributing to stress. It could be that a particular health condition or discomfort is adding to stress levels. It’s important to have access to treatments and medicines so you can suitably support your health. Health treatments and medication can be ordered easily online via the UK’s most trusted online pharmacy, Pharmica. Pharmica enables convenient ordering through their free online prescription service.
Counselling – Counselling offers an effective way to talk through problems you are facing and can help with the identification and resolution of stress.