The Digestive System
The stress response causes the liver to produce extra glucose (blood sugar). If this becomes chronic, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases.
Increased hormones, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate cause the digestive system to become upset. An increase of stomach acid can cause acid reflux or heartburn. Stress can make an existing ulcer worse, or increase the risk of getting one. Stress can affect the way food moves through the digestive system, leading to nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, diarrhea or constipation.
Sexuality and the Reproductive System
Stress takes a toll on both body and mind. It can cause a decrease in sexual desire. Short term stress can cause an increase in testosterone in men, but this effect doesn’t last. Chronic stress can cause a man’s testosterone levels to drop, which, in turn, interferes with sperm production. This can lead to erectile dysfunction or impotence. Chronic stress can also cause an increase in infection for male reproductive organs like the prostate and testes.
In women, stress can affect the menstrual cycle. It can lead to irregular or heavier, more painful periods. Physical menopause symptoms can also be magnified.
One of the most dangerous things about stress is that it can easily creep up on a person. Once it’s there, it feels normal or familiar. One gets used to it. The effects of stress become noticeable, and it can take a heavy toll.
Common warning signs of stress overload can include:
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgement
- Negative outlook
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constant worry
- Aches and pains
- Chest pain, rapid heart rate
- Nausea or dizziness
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Over or under eating
- Too much or too little sleep
- Social withdrawal
- Procrastination, neglect
- Emotional unhappiness or depression
- Anxiety and agitation
- Moodiness, irritability, anger
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Loneliness, sad, isolated
- Other mental or emotional problems
So, now that you have seen “the enemy”, what can you do?
The first step to “self care” is to recognize that stress has begun to harm your body, mind and spirit. The second step is to decide to make a change. Do you love yourself enough to make a change in your lifestyle? One small, consistent change, over time, can be powerful.
Sit down with yourself, and try to find the sources of stress in your life. Think of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual causes. Write them down, and begin to see how and where they affect you and your life.