You have a project at work, a presentation, a bid to get out... gotta take the kids to school, practice, and music lessons... you're not sure if you want to stay with your boyfriend or maybe your best friend is leaving you out. Stress can manifest from many things in your life, but do you know what it's doing to your body when you can't let go of it?
Chronic stress is a real problem for people and almost anyone can have it. Chronic stress is when you are in a state of stress for a prolonged period of time (so more than a few days). When you're under stress your body goes into a "fight or flight" state. This state increases your breathing, heartbeat, and blood to your muscles. Usually, once the stressful situation passes so do the effects. When you're constantly in this state, say from an abusive boss, then these reactions don't go away and can really wreak havoc on your system.
Your entire body is effected when you have chronic stress- immune system, mental and emotional, reproductive system, muscular system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, and digestive system.
Muscular system: When you are under stress your muscles tense up, but if that tension is never released then you start to do damage to your muscles and put other parts of your body in pain. If you carry your stress in your neck and shoulders then you could be giving yourself stress headaches from that tension.
Respiratory system: Stress can actually make you breathe harder. This can lead to asthma attacks for those who are prone to them. This can also lead to hyperventilation because the body isn't getting enough air and cannot calm down.
Cardiovascular system: During stress larger amounts of blood are being pumped from the heart to the rest of the body and increases your blood pressure. If the heart never gets back to a settled and calm state then it is constantly working harder than it needs to. This can wear down the heart, cause hypertension, heart attack, and stroke. This can also effect your cholesterol levels and cause inflammation in the coronary arteries.
Digestive system: When you are under stress hormones sound off all over your body to help fight the attack. The liver responds by sending out a burst of glucose (stored sugar) to help nourish the fight. This increases the sugar in the blood and the pancreas responds by releasing insulin. Under chronic stress the constant rise in the blood sugar and trigger for insulin to be used can lead to type 2 diabetes. Chronic stress can also cause heart burn and give the feeling of being nauseated.
Reproductive system: Chronic stress can put a damper on the reproductive system. For women it can cause irregular periods, early on set menopause, reduced sexual desire, and issues with getting pregnant. For men it can cause a low sperm count, issues with testosterone production, and erectile dysfunction. Chronic stress can also cause infections in the reproductive system for men.
Immune system: Stress hormones can actually weaken the immune system when the body is under chronic stress. People who have chronic stress are more apt to the flu, colds, and viral illnesses. Because stress puts a damper on the immune system it takes a longer period of time to recover from illnesses.
Mental and emotional: Under chronic stress people may experience irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and over eating. To cope people will over eat, drink alcohol, and withdraw into themselves. This can cause weight gain, obesity, and an overall emotional change.