Stress has a big impact on our bodies. It activates your sympathetic nervous system aka the fight or flight reflex. And if not properly addressed, stress can make you sick.
The Cleveland Clinic tracks such things and put stress in perspective. The clinic said, “Your sympathetic nervous system activates to speed up your heart rate, deliver more blood to areas of your body that need more oxygen or other responses to help you get out of danger.”
Washington University School of Medicine psychiatrist, Dr. Jessi Gold said chronic stress enacts a number of physical and mental systems. “Chronic stress is something that definitely shows up both in the brain and the body and illustrates the connection between the two,” she said.
Here are some of the symptoms of chronic stress; symptoms that can make you sick:
- GI distress
- Teeth grinding
- Trouble concentrating
“Sometimes the person will be more irritable with, or avoidant of others, and that might make them stop responding to text messages or cancel plans, for example,” Gold says. “They might also turn to alcohol or drug use to cope.”
Dr. Cheryl Conrad is a professor of psychology at Arizona State University. She says the brain responds to stress in a lot of different ways.
“The brain responds to stress and all kinds of hormones in very plastic ways,” Dr. Conrad said. ”Cortisol changes the way neurons respond to each other, the receptors that are expressed and when stress becomes chronic, the neurons alter their function. This is not unique to stress — ovarian hormones alter neurons too.”
Gold said this isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. Chronic stress is often a survival mechanism that helps us to develop good survival habits.
“As hard as it is to do, trying to find time, even 5 minutes for yourself and doing something you like, can make a difference. What you do for that time is up to you, but some people find things like mindfulness, exercise and journaling helpful for stress reduction,” she said. “ It is also important that things like routine, sleep and eating are emphasized. This includes learning to have stricter boundaries between work and home and saying no, or setting limits, more often.”