All the work and hardly any relaxation? In addition, fear of infection with coronaviruses and job loss? Not a good mix. So constant stress damages your health.
The tension from the constant overtime does not let you sleep? Are you panicking about deadlines? In addition, there is now also the fear of Covid-19 and the fear of the job. And you suddenly have a headache and backache? All of this can indicate that you are being exposed to too much stress. Sure, everyone has particularly stressful phases. But if you are more of a permanent state than a phase, you should pay attention now: Because stress can cause permanent, serious consequences.
What Is Stress Anyway?
“Stress is an external or internal burden to which the body reacts. You can differentiate between Eustress and distress,” says Prof. Hans-Christian Deter from the Berlin Charité. Eustress is a stress that has advantages and no negative effects on your body. For example, this can be a sport. For example, Eustress can help you stay on the ball and motivate you to achieve your best performance.
It’s different with distress: “Distress can have disadvantages for those affected. The stress often leads to frustration and can lead to illness,” says the professor of psychosomatics. Often work is one of the factors causing distress. When stressed, the hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, among other things, are released. “The increase in stress hormones is a normal and important reaction of the body, because it ensures that you are awake and can react quickly when there is danger,” says Deter. However, releasing these hormones on a long-term basis is not good for your body.
What Are The Causes Of Stress?
“The triggers for stress can be very different from one individual to the next: stress for one person is not always stress for another,” emphasizes Deter. There are also clear differences between men and women. A 2016 study by Techniker Krankenkasse shows that while 54 percent of the men surveyed stated that work is a source of stress, it was only 39 percent of the female study participants. On the other hand, 48 percent of women said that the excessive demands on themselves cause stress – but only 37 percent of men.
The study also shows how different the causes of stress can be: Constant availability, participation in road traffic and too many appointments and obligations in leisure time lead to stress. However, according to the study, work is one of the biggest factors – and Deter can confirm this: “The workload is a common cause of stress because people nowadays work more intensively and more. The increasing incidence of burnout shows that the demands in the workplace in people have often increased, “says the expert.
These Are The Nine Most Common Effects Of Stress
Your body can usually cope well with brief periods of stress. It only becomes a problem when you can no longer find a way out of the constant stress – and the stress becomes a permanent problem. Because then there are various consequences for your body and your psyche.
You Suffer From Headaches Regularly
Headache is often one of the first symptoms to show when you are under too much stress. In the study by Techniker Krankenkasse, a total of 26 percent of those surveyed said they suffered frequent or even permanent headaches or migraines because of their stress. If your head is regularly pounding, it could be a sign of too much stress.
Neck And Back Pain Is Bothering You
Yes, stress can also affect your neck or back. “Especially when working frequently on the PC, an unfavorable posture can be adopted, which can lead to back pain under stress”, emphasizes the expert, Deter. The body’s alertness caused by constant stress also tenses the muscles, which can also lead to headaches, neck pain, or back pain. The scary thing about such consequences is that those affected often do not get the idea that it might be because of the stress: “Many people simply take medication for headaches or have a massage for back pain they are not aware of, “said Deter.
You May Experience Cramps And Shortness Of Breath
Too frequent and intense stress can also lead to functional disorders, says Deter: “For example, it can lead to functional disorders of breathing with cramps and shortness of breath and a change in the acid / base balance.” However, these are reversible and, for example, go back the moment you stop hyperventilating.
You Suffer From Gastrointestinal Complaints
“Stress can also affect the digestive system: diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain can all be responses to stress,” says Deter because the increased number of stress hormones increase the concentration of gastric acid, which causes problems for your gastrointestinal tract.
Your Blood Pressure Skyrockets
Physical illnesses such as high blood pressure or other cardiovascular diseases can result from high stress levels. “During stress, the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline are released from the adrenal medulla and the central nervous system, which cause the pulse and blood pressure, for example, to rise,” says the stress expert. If the stress persists over a long period, high blood pressure can become a permanent problem for you. Cardiac arrhythmias or palpitations can also occur.
You Are Constantly Exhausted
The constant strain can drain the body and the psyche. Deter explains this as follows: “Acute stress also leads to an increase in the hormone cortisol. If the stress persists for a long time, the body’s own stress system becomes exhausted and a cortisol deficiency manifests itself as exhaustion in those affected,” says Deter, the expert. And this exhaustion can, in turn, lead to other physical illnesses or exacerbate existing ones. “For example, if people have a chronic illness and have to take medication, stress can lead them to forget to take them,” says Deter. Not infrequently, stress can also cause burnout, i.e. lead to complete psychological and physical exhaustion.
The Stress Robs You Of Sleep
You lie around for hours at night, tossing and turning, but can’t sleep? This, too, is a common consequence of stress. “The physical symptoms of stress can often be accompanied by ailments such as palpitations, sweating and sleep disorders,” says Deter. In addition to having trouble falling asleep, stress can also ensure that you wake up from panic in the middle of the night and cannot find your way back to sleep.
Constant Stress Can Cause Mental Illnesses Such As Depression
“In the long run, stress can cause psychological symptoms, including depression, anxiety, panic attacks or exhaustion,” emphasizes the expert. If symptoms such as negative thoughts, feelings of emptiness, decreased self-esteem, or listlessness persists, this could indicate depression, possibly caused by too much stress.
Your Immune System Is Weakened
The stress hormone cortisol can initially strengthen your immune system. But as soon as your body releases the hormone too often, you will eventually become exhausted. This weakens your immune system enormously because your body then releases too little cortisol. The longer this exhaustion lasts, the longer you are more susceptible to infections.
How Can You Fight Stress?
“Perceiving the stress is an important first step: then those affected can try to find a remedy and reduce stress and, for example, also try to work less or spend more time with the family,” advises the Charité professor. Even this first step is not easy for many because those affected often underestimate the stress – or do not even know that they are suffering from excessive stress. Therefore, the following applies to you: If you have had symptoms such as headaches, diarrhea or even high blood pressure and panic attacks for some time, you should ask yourself whether it might not be due to your everyday stress. And even if you notice with friends that the stress is getting too much for them, you can help them by asking them about it.
As soon as you have realized that you are stressed, treatment can begin: “Relaxation is very helpful against stress. There are methods such as autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation or yoga,” says Deter.
But the expert emphasizes that it is important first to understand the causes of the stress that makes you sick and find practical solutions. Sometimes it helps if you allow yourself more free time or time with your loved ones. So you can try to fight your stress on your own first – but you should also pull the ripcord in good time if you no longer know what to do. “If the stress is so great that the person concerned has to seek medical help and call in sick, it is advisable to start more intensive treatment to reduce stress,” recommends Deter.
Conclusion: Listen To Your Body
Although stress manifests itself in several physical and psychological signs, many sufferers do not realize that their stress levels could be too high. If you suffer from headaches, back pain, stomach upsets, high blood pressure, permanent exhaustion or insomnia, you should ask yourself whether it might not be the stress because the work or the high demands on yourself may be too much of a strain on you. If you get your stress under control early enough with more free time or relaxation methods, you can avoid long-term consequences such as depression and burnout.