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What stress is doing to your body and how to reduce it...

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s response to feeling threatened or under pressure and is a hugely common mental wellbeing concern. When we’re stressed hormones such as cortisol flood our system and produce the ‘fight or flight’ response – our heart rate goes up, our breathing gets heavy and our blood vessels constrict. Now, this is great if we are being chased by a pack of wolves. However, our bodies can’t tell the difference between an approaching wolf and a pee’d off partner or particularly irritating work colleague, so our stress response is triggered even when there is no imminent danger.

Physical responses to stress

Stress can be caused by numerous things, such as being under a lot of pressure or having too many responsibilities. These could be related to work, relationships, studies, health, finances and family. It is important to remember that feeling stressed from time to time is normal. We all experience it and react differently both physically and emotionally. Here are some of the physical responses to stress...

  • Digestive problems - the sudden increase in certain hormones can cause upset to your digestive system, for example, bloating, nausea, cramps and diarrhoea.

  • Aches and pains - Your muscles aren’t very good at relaxing when you’re stressed, which in turn can cause tension in the muscles to build up.

  • Hypertension - Your heart beats faster and blood pressure rises as a result of adrenaline being released, a response to stress Overtime this can have a impact on your heart health, increasing the risk of heart ad circulatory diseases.

  • Fatigue - Stress can make it quite difficult for some to fall asleep and stay asleep, ultimately leading to fatigue and sometimes insomnia.

  • Changes to the menstrual cycle - Stress can have an affect on the menstrual cycle, whereby periods can become irregular, heavy and sometimes more painful. Stress can also make menopause symptoms worse as well.

Managing Stress

Whilst we can’t control the day-to-day life stresses that are thrown our way, practising self-care can help to reduce stress levels and the longer term effects of stress. To help relieve symptoms stress, try these things;

  • Regular exercise

  • Spend time talk to family and/or friends

  • Make time for the things you enjoy, whether that’s getting creative, listening to music or cooking

  • Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing

  • Maintaining a good sleep routine - try keep your phone in a different room or turning it off and hour before bed!

  • Don’t be afraid to take a break and some time out for yourself

It really is important to look after yourself, no matter how big or small the self-care activity is. So I challenge you to take at least 15 minutes a day for you for the next week - because you are important and you are worth it beyond words!