Do you feel tension, nervousness, and butterflies in the stomach or pressure in new conditions? If the answer is yes, then you are stressed! Actually, when the combination of internal and external pressures exceeds the individual’s resource to cope with their situation then it is called stress. However, stress has got some beneficial as well as some harmful effect on health.
Good stress or eustress helps one to grow confidence. In our daily life we face many complications or challenges. In such cases good stress plays a role as a spark to drive one to achieve his goal or to fight for justice or just to improve the quality of life. On the other hand, lack of motivation, unfulfilled dreams often leads to boredom. If one cannot reach his goal that may also create low self esteem. When someone faces a new challenge then the stimulation that the body undergoes also help that person to cope up with that situation. By doing so, one gets the confidence of taking risks, developing communication skill, learning new things etc. In a research it was found that during stress some hormones are released from brain that plays a role in enhancing learning and memory.
On the other hand, too much stress is harmful for humans. When a healthy body becomes stressed then the muscles tense up. Long term stress can promote stress-related disorders. Chronic muscle tension leads to headache and migraine in the area of head, neck and shoulder.
Breathing is also hampered with stress. Patients with asthma or any other lung disease may find it difficult to breathe when they need sufficient oxygen. Again, rapid-breathing or hyperventilation due to stress can cause panic attack also.
Stress increases heart rate and contraction of heart muscles. As a result blood vessels that transport blood to different parts of the body feel much pressure. These effects are enhanced by some hormones such as adrenaline, nor adrenaline and cortisol. If these conditions continue for long time then it may take a toll on body. Long term stressed condition may increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke. Cholesterol level in blood circulation is also affected due to stress. Stress can also contribute to inflammation in the circulatory system that ties stress to heart attack.
Under stressful condition liver produces more glucose and if the extra glucose is not used or absorbed then people who are prone to develop type 2 diabetes can be affected.
People may eat much more or less food than usual in a stressful situation. Some may also increase use of alcohol in stressed condition. Eating more or using alcohol increase the risk for heartburn, some may develop ulcer or some experience severe pain in stomach even without ulcer. Nausea and vomiting may also be occurred due to stress. Even food digestion is also hampered due to stress. Some may experience diarrhea or constipation.
Human brain can be greatly affected by stress. During stress hormones like cortisol and glucocorticoid are released and these hormones kill brain cells in experimental animals. Again it was found that high level of glucocorticoid can shrink the hippocampus, a part of brain that is responsible for memory. As a result the brain loses its ability to create new connections to new brain cells. Long term exposure to stress hormones reduces one’s ability to concentrate, think ahead or to learn quickly.
Stress also affects reproductive health of both males and females. Stress can affect testosterone production, sperm production and maturation and even cause erectile dysfunction or impotence in males. Some males may also become vulnerable to infection to the testes, urethra and prostate gland. In case of females high levels of stress is often associated with irregular or absent menstruation cycles or changes in the length of cycles. Hormone level of women may also fluctuate due to chronic stress and it may affect health. Anxiety, mood swing or feeling distress is all results of stress.
Stress if balanced with daily life activities can be beneficial. There are several techniques that help to reduce stress. Relaxation is a useful technique that reduces muscle tension and also decreases the incidences of stress related disorders such as migraine and headache. Again relaxation with deep breathing can also help to overcome stress. It was observed that healthy people who have a good amount of sleep and nutritious food are less affected by stress. Positive thinking should be practiced and the goal or target of life should be clear to reach the point of success. Sometimes a friendly talk with someone or a vacation also reduces stress.
Medication is not always a solution. If stress is balanced by doing simple daily exercise or activities then it is very much useful. Life is not always complicated, sometimes it is us to makes it complicated by our thinking negatively and doing unplanned activities. Body and mind also need some recreation to reduce stress.
Sabera Rahman is an undergrad student of Department of Pharmacy, East West University. She has interest on pharmacology and pharmaceutical chemistry. She can be reached at email@example.com
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