BUSY SCHEDULES, ALWAYS “ON THE GO”
Our world has become extremely fast paced – thanks to technology, the expectation to be highly productive. and the need to achieve the desired results.
Before I started The Wellness Institute in 2013, I was working in the insurance industry, and I thrived on my busy schedule. I didn’t see much of my husband and my son. I had forgotten that slowing down actually meant embracing the “finer things in life”. At that time, I didn’t quite understand what the “finer things in life” were because I was more focused on “getting things done” and accomplishing my professional goals.
Everything was great…until I became physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. When one gets burnt out, we not only lose our passion and excitement in life, but we also lose the most important thing: OUR HEALTH. How much stress you experience, and the way your body reacts to it, can lead to a variety of health problems.
The human body is made up of different systems which include the Endocrine, Nervous, Musculoskeletal, Urogenital, Respiratory, Circulatory, Immune, Digestive and Integumentary (skin) Systems. Below are ways that stress affects each of these body systems:
Stress & the Cardiovascular System
The circulatory system, also called the cardiovascular system, consists of the heart and blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries).
Stress causes irregular heartbeat, chest pain, and the constriction of the blood vessels. Acute stress (or short-term stress such as meeting deadlines OR being stuck in traffic) causes an increase in heart rate. The heart muscle also experiences stronger contractions.
Stress hormones (adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol) may damage the lining of the arteries. Repeated episodes of acute stress can cause inflammation in the coronary arteries which may increase the risk of a heart attack. (http://www.apa.org)
Long-term effects of stress on the cardiovascular system include: high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Stress & the Musculoskeletal System
The musculoskeletal system is made up of the bones of the skeleton, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissue that supports and binds tissues and organs together..
When we experience stress, our muscles tense up. Unrelieved muscle tension triggers tension headaches, migraines, back pain, and various musculoskeletal conditions including temporo-mandibular joint or TMJ (jaw pain).
Long-term stress on the skeletal system include: decreased bone density and joint malfunction. Long term effects on the muscular system include: muscle tension, muscle aches, spasms, strains and sprains.
Stress & the Gastrointestinal System
The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal tract (also called the digestive tract) and the liver, pancreas and gallbladder.
Stress can affect digestion and which nutrients your intestines absorb. Stress causes digestive upset such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and appetite abnormalities. If you eat more, or increase your use of tobacco or alcohol, you may experience heartburn, or acid reflux.
The long-term effects of stress on the gastrointestinal system include: stomach ulcers, irritable bowel disease (IBD), colitis and acid reflux.
Stress & the Immune System
Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by “foreign” invaders. If your immune system cannot do its job, the results can be serious.
Disorders of the immune system include: allergy and asthma, immune deficiency diseases, and autoimmune diseases. Stress decreases the body’s immune system’s response to infections and other serious diseases resulting in diabetes, cancer and other illnesses.
Stress causes low immunity which can result in sickness like colds, flu, and viruses. The long-term effects of stress on the immune system include: Epstein Barr Virus, Fibromyalgia, Candida and Lupus.
Anxiety, Stress & the Endocrine System
The endocrine system is made up of the pituitary gland, pineal gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, thymus, pancreas, ovaries (in females) and testicles (in males). It is a system of glands, each of which secretes a type of hormone directly into the bloodstream to regulate the body.
The endocrine system is in contrast to the exocrine system, which secretes its chemicals using ducts. The endocrine system is instrumental in regulating mood, tissue function, metabolism, and reproductive processes. When the body is stressed, the adrenal cortex produces cortisol and the adrenal medulla produces epinephrine sometimes called the “stress hormones”. When these hormones are released, the liver produces more glucose, a blood sugar that would give you the energy for “fight or flight” in an emergency.
The long-term effects of stress on the endocrine system include: chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, and menstruation irregularities.
Stress & the Integumentary System
The integumentary system consists of the skin, hair, nails, and exocrine glands. The skin is the largest organ in the body.
When under stress, levels of cortisol increase. This major stress hormone breaks down collagen and causes inflammation. We may experience skin problems including psoriasis, acne, rosacea, fine lines and wrinkles.
Stress can cause hair loss, brittle nails and acne. Long term effects of stress include: chronic skin disorders, inability to heal wounds properly, skin infections and premature aging.
Stress & the Urogenital System
The genitourinary or urogenital system includes both the reproductive organs and the excretory organs. The excretory system is comprised of the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra. It’s job is to remove waste from the body in order to help maintain the body’s homeostasis.
The long-term effects of stress on the urogenital system include: kidney stones, bladder infections, cystitis, and kidney infections.
Chronic stress can lead to a drop in sex drive as well as a drop in fertility. For men, stress can impair testosterone, affect sperm production and cause impotence. For women, stress could cause anovulation, painful periods, and absent or irregular menstrual cycles.
Stress on the Brain & Nervous System
The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord, sensory organs, and all of the nerves that connect these organs with the rest of the body. The nervous system is a complex collection of nerves and specialized cells known as neurons that transmit signals between different parts of the body. It is essentially the body’s electrical wiring.
When the body is stressed, the sympathetic nervous system signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline & cortisol. These stress hormones make the heart beat faster, raise blood pressure, change the digestive process & boost glucose levels in the bloodstream.
Long-term effects of stress on the brain & nervous system include: anxiety, panic attacks, depression and insomnia.
Stress & the Respiratory System
The human respiratory system is a series of organs responsible for taking in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. There are 3 major parts of the respiratory system: the airway, the lungs, and the muscles of respiration. The airway, which includes the nose, mouth, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles, carries air between the lungs and the body’s exterior.
When you get stressed, the body demands more oxygen. Stress can make you breathe harder and cause rapid breathing or hyperventilation which can bring on panic attacks. It causes blood vessels to dilate, which is why you may complain of chest pain and palpitations.
Stress causes shortness of breath, dizziness and hyperventilation. Long-term effects of stress on the respiratory system include: asthma, chronic sinusitis and other infections.