Chronic stress can take a heavy toll on the body and is especially seen in women who are used to juggling the multiple responsibilities of work and home.
Anything out of balance does not bode well for us, be it with work, personal life or even excessive socializing. For many, stress is a response to any adversity and one of our most natural reactions to anything that demands more of you than you can give. But how often are you able to identify the signs of severe stress on your body and mind?
If left unchecked, it can lead to chronic stress that takes a heavy toll on the body which tends to affect other areas of your life just as much. This is especially seen in women who are used to juggling the multiple responsibilities of work and home, especially over an extended period of time and with little help. Chances are your body is trying to communicate with you, to warn you of an impending burnout.
Listed below are the effects of extreme stress on the body which can indicate that it's time to slow down and take a breather.
This is a major sign of severe stress. It is possible that you have surpassed your limit of coping with it - this can lead to a lot of fatigue during the day, affecting your performance in the most adverse ways.
Prolonged stress indicates that you have been in a response mode for a long time, and you are using up various resources of your body to deal with an external situation that needs to be solved in order to bring you peace. One study looked at 2,483 participants to determine how stress affects their energy levels. It was found that a lot of fatigue can be the result of previously experienced stress. The study revealed that fatigue is highest associated with perceived stress.
The seat of constant thinking - your head - also bears the brunt of the long-term stress. Obviously, if the situation that is causing the stress has been on your mind for a long time, it is bound to have signs of mental fatigue. If you are experiencing the pain in the head, maybe even extending to the neck region, more frequently of late, then it is perhaps time to find a healthy outlet for the stress that's building up in your body.
One study of 267 people with chronic headaches found that a stressful event preceded the development of chronic headaches in about 45% of cases. Another research was conducted on a population-based sample of 5,159 participants, trying to study the association between frequent high-tension type headaches and the intensity of stress. The results revealed that the higher the intensity of the stress, higher will be the frequency of the days they experienced headaches.
Another effect of severe stress on the body is often felt by your gastro-intestinal functions and digestive tract. The constant state of tension and anticipation of a threat can affect the body's functions, though the direct impact still requires research.
Stress may especially affect those with pre-existing digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These are characterized by stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. One study conducted on 2,699 children showed that exposure to emotional stress contributes to a higher risk of constipation.
People working in high-performance jobs with a fast-paced life that involves a lot of unforgiving work timings may tend to perform not as well in the bedroom. And especially for those who are unable to cope with the stress right, it wouldn't be surprising if there's a significant change in the libido or a lowered sex drive.
One of the smaller studies tried to explore the relationship between stress and sexual function in women. The study focuses on the sexual response cycle and how it is affected by the level of stress the participants were experiencing. They evaluated the stress levels of 30 women and then measured their arousal while watching an erotic film. Those with high levels of chronic stress experienced less arousal compared to those with lower stress levels.
One of the reasons for your frequent cold and sniffles may be chronic stress. Most of the times, stress can deal some significant reduction in a person's immunity. When you have a decreased line of defense against the infections, you are bound to fall sick more often than not.
One of the studies exploring this relation looked at 235 participants and their susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infection. Those with high levels of stress were found to be more prone to getting infected. Those in the high-stress group experienced 70% more respiratory infections and had nearly 61% more days of exhibiting the symptoms when compared to the low-stress group.
You barely have the memory of the time when your body was totally fine and no pain marred your physical comfort. However, in recent times, you have a recurring pain in some or the other part of your body. This could be mainly due to the high level of prolonged stress which produces extra cortisol (stress hormone) that keeps your muscles more tightened and rigid.
One research had found a relation with the chronic pain and the levels of stress - they compared 16 people with chronic back pain to a control group. It found that those with chronic pain had higher levels of cortisol.
Another side effect of high cortisol levels in your body is visible on your skin. Excess of the stress hormone prompts the skin to produce more oil, which can block the pores and lead to acne and patchiness. Apart from acne breakouts, you can also eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, according to westlakedermatology.com. It can also speed up the aging of your skin.
While skin is often the first indicator of a stressed-out body, prevalent stress over an extended period of time can be visible through your hair. While some experience hair fall, others begin to notice premature greying of the hair. While this may vary from person to person, excessive hair fall and premature greying are alarming signs of chronic stress, which needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
There are a lot of cases where your increased stress can affect your sleep cycle. However, chronic stress is marked by the inability to sleep. If you find yourself wide awake for the most part of the night, and restless in general otherwise too, then it could be another sign to watch out for. Lack of a proper night's sleep further deteriorates your performance throughout the following day. This would only add to your stress, creating a vicious that needs to be broken.
One of the studies conducted on a sample of 2,316 participants. The researchers wanted to see the relation between stress and the sleep reactivity as a diathesis of insomnia. What they found was that the higher the number of stressful events they experienced, higher were the chances of them suffering from insomnia.
The symptoms mentioned above can also be seen in other disorders. The studies show an association, but they don’t account for other factors that may have played a role. Moreover, if you are going through something similar, it is advised that you consult an expert regarding the matter at the soonest.
Link 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23436504
Link 2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/symptoms-of-stress#section3
Link 3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23841462/
Link 4. https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body#2