Stressed Out

By Kate Hassett

Stressed Out
What stress is actually doing to your body and how you can prevent it.

Whilst the human body is well adapted to deal with burst of short-term stress, long-term exposure to stress can have a variety of adverse effects on your wellbeing. Heightened levels of stress can act to spur us on, motivate us and encourage us to reach our full potential, or, it can hinder us, halting our ability to respond to stressful situations and escape from them.

Stress is s a feeling we all experience when we are challenged, but aside from the emotion, ongoing stress can have serious impacts on our general wellbeing.

“The majority of stress for most people in the Western world today is psychological rather than physical, and it can be constant and relentless,” says biochemist Dr Libby Weaver, in her new book Exhausted to Energised.

So what is stress actually doing to our systems?

The Nervous System

This is where your “fight or flight” response comes from. When you are under pressure, feel stressed or are put in a certain situation, your brain’s sympathetic nerves tell the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. Whilst this release can act to motivate some people, persistently high levels of these chemicals in the body can impair memory, learning ability and increase your risk of depression.

The Endocrine System

When your stress hormones are active, the liver begins to produce higher levels of blood sugar, which spikes your energy in a tough situation. Extended periods of elevated glucose levels can increase your risk of type-2 diabetes.

The Respiratory System

Panic attacks, worrying and stress can all lead to irregularities in breath. Short-term these are completely normal, understandable reactions to certain situations, but long-term, constant irregularities can act to make you more susceptible to upper-respiratory infections.


Small moments of stress that increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure are again, normal, but when you are feeling constant unrelenting pressure, your arteries are at risk of narrowing, your cholesterol levels are heightened and your likelihood of stroke, heart disease or heart attack is increased.

The Reproductive System 

High levels of stress can act to shorten, extend or delay your menstrual cycle, it can also increase your period pain in the long-term. Ongoing stress, whilst pregnant, has been shown to increase the likelihood of a child developing asthma or allergies later in life.

The Immune System 

Stress in small  bursts can help boost the immune system, allowing your body to produce the antibodies and hormones needed to fight infection and promote cellular growth and repair. When the stress continues, your immune system can suffer. Aside from slowing your body’s ability to heal, stress can also aggravate skin conditions like eczema, hives and psoriasis.

The Digestive System 

Never ending stress can have terrible effects on your digestive system. From indigestion, nausea and gas to diarrhoea and constipation, you can begin to feel very real and very uncomfortable symptoms.

Long-term effects can also heighten your risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn and stomach ulcers.

So how do we stop stress from taking over our lives? Try these easy to follow steps and reclaim your wellbeing today.


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