To achieve a state of wellness, one must take into account the whole person – body, mind, and emotions. Each one of these is interwoven so that if one area suffers, the other areas will be impacted to some degree. Stress is one problem that tends to strike wellness at the root, effecting the emotions, fogging the mind, and breaking down the body. The Miami Herald had this statistic to report:
According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. And more than 75 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
The opposite of stress is peace or a state of well-being. When one continually achieves a stress-free environment, he or she obtains a higher state of wellness. Through a concerted focus and plan, one may achieve a stress-reduced or stress-free life, and therefore, live a happier life of wellness. The following highlights the effects of stress on the body, mind, and emotions and practical ways to combat it.
Stress on the Body
Our body is capable of handling some stress. Actually, a certain amount of stress may be good, or at least ok. For example, if we had no stress reactions about danger, the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism would not kick in. So, when we experience a near miss traffic incident on the highway, the stress reaction probably saved us from an accident. Also, consider the effects of positive stress when we must deliver a speech or a doctor performs a difficult surgery. The adrenaline pumping, the heart beating a bit faster, transforms to positive energy (in most cases), and stress works on our behalf. A continued barrage of stress on the body without rest is the problem. When met with brief episodes of stress, followed by adequate rest and refreshment, the body bounces back. However, chronic stress breaks down the body in three key areas:
When the body is stressed, the muscles reflexively react by contracting. When the stress is chronic, muscles continually tense leading to pain, headaches, and other stress-related problems.
Under stressful situations, the heart contracts, the heart and blood pressure rises, and the stress hormone cortisol increases. These all take a toll on the heart raising the risk of hypertension, heart attack, and stroke.
Stress tells the body to produce epinephrine and cortisol which then triggers the body to make more glucose. For some people, this may not be much of an issue, but for others, it can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
To summarize, the body dealing with chronic stress may have these related diseases or disorders:
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Skin conditions
- Upset stomach
- Higher vulnerability to cancer
Solutions for the Stressed Body
The solution for the stressed body is to provide plenty of recuperating rest. We all recognize the need for seven to eight hours of sleep a night. However, during times of stress, people must take additional time for napping or sleeping in order to restore their body. Additionally, it is important to invest in a high-quality mattress so the time you spend sleeping is deep and refreshing.
Stress on the Mind
Your body isn’t the only part of you that is impacted by stress. Your brain or mind takes a hit, too. Here are three ways chronic stress effects your mind:
1) Restructure of brain
Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley have conducted studies tracing the effects of chronic stress on the brain and found a correlation between the stress hormone cortisol and changes in the brain structure. Long-term stress was found to be responsible for producing too many myelin cells. This results in more white matter in the brain at the expense of the gray matter. So, what does this all mean? First, an understanding of what role white matter and gray matter play in the brain is necessary.
White matter: White matter is responsible for providing tissue for messages to pass between various places of the gray matter.
Gray matter: Gray matter is the part of your brain that handles communication, sensory perception, muscle coordination, memory, emotions, decision-making, and self-discipline.
As is evident, gray matter is most important for our mind to function well.
2) Stem cell dysfunction
Chronic stress releases the hormone cortisol which in turn carves out a more permanent pathway between the hippocampus and the amygdale. The hippocampus is the part of your brain that handles short-term memories, and the amygdale is the emotions center. So, what happens when these two areas get hard-wired? It results in a potential predisposition to the “fight or flight” response that is cyclic.
3) Inhibits learning
The hippocampus, responsible for transferring short-term memory to long-term memory, is impacted by stress. Researchers at the University of California Irvine discovered when the stress hormone cortisol is released into the brain it eliminates a part of the brain called dendritic spines. This is important because the dendritic spines support neurons, which in turn are necessary for learning and memory.
To summarize, a brain under stress looks different than a brain not experiencing stress resulting in potential cognitive problems.
Solutions for the Stressed Mind
The solutions for a stressed mind are refreshing the body through wholesome practices of plentiful sleep, exercise, and relaxation techniques. Combating stress requires a holistic approach. Incorporate wellness techniques into each day. Furthermore, as individuals become more aware of their stress triggers, it is important to take a few moments for relaxation or deep breathing. Another helpful solution offered by Mayo Clinic is positive thinking or more accurately, positive self-talk.
Stress on the Emotions
The emotions are closely related to the mind and often times conditions may overlap from one category to the next. The distinction, for the sake of this article, is the mind is referred to as the physiological nature of the brain, whereas the emotions refer to one’s mental state. So, the question is, does stress impact your emotions? Almost everyone can answer that question without much research. We don’t use expressions like “stressed to the breaking point” for nothing. When chronic stress is a factor in someone’s life, some symptoms you may notice are:
- Crying easily
These are some of the normal signs for the stressed emotions. There is science to back up these symptoms, as well. Stress hormones act like a sedative which calms people, but when chronic stress is present, too many stress hormones lead to “low energy and depression.” Conversely, in other people, the continued production of stress hormones brings about anxiety disorders.
To summarize, people who are inundated with continual stress without refreshment for their body, may experience emotional problems such as:
- Vulnerability to other mental disorders
Solutions for the Stressed Emotions
When the emotions are in an upheaval, life feels out of sorts. Providing care and comfort for your whole being is the only solution to bring about wellness. For the stressed emotions, the following is recommended:
- Maintain close contact with loved ones.
- Find an outlet for built up anxiety, worry, or fear (i.e. writing, talking it out, exercising, etc.).
- Have a loved one give you a massage when stress is at a peak.
- Ensure you have a comfortable mattress, sheets, and pillow.
- Refrain from too much caffeine.
- Sleep well.
- Take mini naps when stress is at a peak.
Wellness is something everyone desires, but few achieve because it requires concentrated effort and work to maintain. The body, mind, and emotions work together to form the entire person and each component needs special care. Chronic stress is a sabotager of wellness. Adequate rest, relaxation, and healthful habits all play a part in reducing stress. At Urban Mattress, we specialize in promoting wellness through excellent mattresses. Contact you local Urban Mattress store to begin your journey to a more restful life.