Emotional Health Science & Psychology

How Stress Affects Your Body And Health According To Science

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If you knew before how stress affects your body and health, you would never stress over trivial things, ever again!

Stress, stress, stress…. stress everywhere! As we set foot in the Information Age, our stress has increased tenfold.

In former times, 15.000 years ago, stress was mostly caused by something physical. People were under the pressure to find food and stay safe. In a way this is also mental stress, but the outcome is physical, and the stress is very different than the one today.

When you woke up this morning, you weren’t stressed about the food you are going to eat, nor about your safety of a lion attacking you on broad daylight. We now have so many choices of what we eat that the vast majority of choice is causing us stress. And yes, we now pay to see lions in cages!

Probably (and correct me if I am wrong) the first stress you had was a notification you received from your social platforms. Emails, Viber, Whatsapp, Facebook… you name it.

The stress we now have is mostly mental, rather than something that might happen in the physical reality. We have more made up stress caused by fear, rather than something that might put our life in real danger.

Mostly stress is caused by money, work and relationships. That is the global stress that vast majority of people fight over and over in their heads.

Now, I agree that these 3 things are really, REALLY important, but the stress is mostly caused by something that will never happen.

In the previous article, (that should pop right now in the right corner just above my head) looked into how many of the things we worry about turn out to be true in real life.

In the study, subjects were asked to write down their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of the things they wrote down did not actually happen.

It turns out that 85 percent of what we worry about never happens, and with the 15 percent that does happen, 79 percent of people discovered that either:

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a) they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or
b) the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning

This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is just a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.

The stress we feel is just a made up story of something that will probably never happen in the future.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some stress can be good, for example you pushing and motivating yourself to accomplish your goals and complete crucial tasks. But a lot of stress is bad, making you feel overwhelmed and ill. That’s because the negative effects of stress on immune function are significant.

How Stress Affects Your Body And Health

How Stress Affects Your Body And Health

No matter how many times we tell ourselves not to worry about trivial things, something always gets to us.

What happens is that we start creating endless loop of stories (that will probably never happen in real life) and then stress about the outcome of the fairy tales. This can cause serious health problems, according to science.

Think about your life. When life is good, life is not stressful, right? That’s because stress on your body and mind can press down your immune system. And why is that? Your body goes into overdrive so you can perform with full steam to tackle your stressors. This can cause the strength of your immunity to suffer.

So how stress affects your body?

The Basic Language of Stress

Learning some of the basics will give you a better understanding of your body’s natural responses. Here are the basics:

  • Stressor: Any stimulus that causes stress. There are two kinds of stressors: physical and psychological. Physical stressors are stress on the body. Psychological stressors are stress on the mind.
  • Hypothalamus: An important command center in the brain. This region is about the size of a penny and sits in the middle of the brain. It controls the activity of the pituitary gland and regulates hunger, thirst, sleep, body temperature, and many emotions.
  • Pituitary Gland: The master gland responsible for releasing most of the hormones in your body.
  • Adrenal Glands: Triangular glands that rest above the kidneys that are responsible for releasing cortisol.
  • Cortisol: The primary hormone released into the blood in response to stress.

How Your Body Handles Stressful “Situations”

How Stress Affects Your Body In Stressful "Situations"
How Stress Affects Your Body In Stressful “Situations”

Your body is a REALLY smart mechanism. It does miracles just to protect you from something that might hurt you. Like you pay attention to a strange looking fella next to you, your body pays attention to defend itself from external sources.

When you experience stress, your body has protocols. Without those protocols we wouldn’t be able to survive as species this long, especially when it comes to stress.

The protocol begins when a stressor comes along and puts pressure on your mind or your body.

The part of your brain that recognizes stress is called the hypothalamus. As soon as the hypothalamus recognizes a stressor, it delivers a swift message via neurons to a neighboring region of the brain called the pituitary gland. This gland registers signals from the hypothalamus and tells the adrenal glands ( just above your kidneys) to increase the amount of stress hormones circulating in the blood.

This is stress protocol 101, and the exact response pattern of your body every time it recognizes stress. But let’s go deeper and connect the dots between stress and immune function. It all boils down to your primary stress hormone—cortisol.

This crucial hormone does wonders by providing an energy boost during periods of stress. But the effects of cortisol are temporary. Once the stress wears off, so does the energy assistance.

Another way cortisol helps your body manage stress is by powering down any non-essential operations in the body. Unfortunately, stress hormone shuts down the immune system to conserve energy so it can run away from the threat, but this makes stressful periods the perfect time for germs to settle in.

This is so true and powerful that when surgeons transplant organs they give the patients stress hormones so they can lower their immune system. They do this because the body’s immune system may reject the new organ, and they lower it on purpose so the body can accept it.

Long story short, how stress affects your body is to your benefit, but not without consequences.

So what can we do to prevent stress from doing severe damage on our health?

Must Read After: How To Stop Worrying And Start Living, According To Science

How Can We Stop Stress From Doing Damage To Our Body And Health

How Can We Stop Stress From Doing Damage To Our Body And Health

What is happening today is that we are being fed with so much information spreading fear, especially with the global situation, that we are lowering our immune system on a global scale.

Just by knowing this fact we should pick the information we are fed very carefully and do everything we can in our power not to let our fear be fed by external factors.

Since information is the biggest cause of fear today, instead of real danger, we have 100% control of the things we stress about. After all, 85% of the things we stress and worry about NEVER HAPPEN, thanks to science confirming this.

Many of the serious health problems are psychosomatic, meaning that we are the main cause of the problem. External factors have big impact on our health, but we have the power of choice. We can literally be the hero we’ve been searching for.

I think the real problem is that we find it easier to point fingers and blame others as to why we fail. It’s easier to put our failure on his or her bill than to take full responsibility from the consequences of our actions.

If I tell you to do a backflip, and you end up hurting your leg, whos fault is it? Your fault, or mine?

It’s the same example with the major decisions. If your parents want you to be a doctor, and you hate every second of it, it’s not your parents fault if your life is miserable 10 years from now. Just like accepting the backflip was your decision, right? These are just examples. Don’t take them to heart.

As you grow you will be challenged with many things from external sources. Like your grandfather telling you to find a real job instead of the one on your computer, and you end up making 54.000$ one month. Or your friends talking behind your back about your “blogging” life.

If I look back and followed every advice from my friends and parents, I would’ve end up working a 9-5 job caged in a cubicle, miserable and unsatisfied with every second of my life. Don’t let someone else’s view on life affect how your life unfolds.

We all perceive life differently. The way you read this will affect you different than it will affect your brother, sister or friends. This means that no one can tell you how you can do something rather than yourself. Of course, they can give you an advice, but it’s up to you how you apply that advice in the physical reality. After all, I’ve learned the most valuable lessons from my failed attempts!

I think the real power is to take full responsibility over the things that affect our life. Only then we can truly learn the lesson and stop the same mistake from happening all over again like a loop.

Take precautions. Make yourself the main protagonist of your own life. And don’t forget how stress affects your body, because you can seriously harm your overall health and make irreversible damage.