Everyone has significant stressors in life. These stressors can stem from careers, family, finances, and so many things that getting a handle on them is crucial for living well. The hidden truth is that stress can impact our bodies, minds, and even our skin, causing significant health issues if left unmanaged.
Working in a job that you enjoy does have its ups and downs. Of course, there’s never a perfect career, but all too often, people find themselves working at a job far longer than they should, not because they’re happy at work, they find themselves stuck.
It could be difficult and scary to change jobs mid-career at times. This is especially true of older workers who fear that they have more to lose in any potential job switch by being closer to retirement. These factors all significantly contribute to an increase in stress, and as we’ll see, stress can have significant health ramifications.
The Parent Trap
For new parents, the little one comes as a mixed bag. Uncertainty about being prepared, being on someone else’s sleep (or lack thereof) schedule, as well as trying to keep your relationship(s) and careers going is a level of stress that is hard to imagine until you’re there.
There’s a slight reprieve for parents of older children when the kids are at school. Still, there are a ton of other concerns, such as providing for the family (i.e., paying the bills), having enough to sign your kids up for extra-curricular sports and activities, as well as having the time and energy for play-dates, or to provide rides when needed.
These situations all amount to excessive stress on parents at all stages of parenting. And that stress can wreak havoc on our bodies if we let it. So what are the effects of stress on the body, and what are some options to minimize those effects?
Stress Effects on the Body
Stress on the body can, over time, create some significant health issues. Stress raises the heart rate and blood pressure of people under stress. This condition can lead to severe health issues if left untreated, such as:
- Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and chest pain
- Headaches, muscle tension, and pain
- Lowered immune system
- May contribute to long-term chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes
- Fatigue and lowered levels of energy
- Significant impacts on overall health and quality of life, including premature death
Stress Effects on the Skin
Additionally, there’s recent evidence that excessive amounts of long-term stress on the body can severely impact skin health. As a result, some specialists focus on the impact of stress on the skin by studying the effects of excessive cortisol and other hormones that may damage the skin.
Stress can lower the ability of collagen to recover and repair skin, creating additional wrinkles and the appearance of advanced aging. Other skin conditions can be minor such as the occasional rash to some more severe and chronic skin issues such as psoriasis and eczema.
Stress Effects on the Mind
Stress can also alter moods, change behaviors, and impact mental health. For example, too much stress is shown to correlate with eating disorders, lack of sex drive, self-esteem and self-perception, lack of motivation, inability to focus, emotional regulation issues, depression, anxiety, and more.
The effects of stress on the mind can influence behaviors negatively. From self-medicating through the use of alcohol and drugs to taking more risks in personal activities, mood changes, and more, there are significant effects that can alter behavior if left untreated.
How You Can Minimize the Effects of Stress Daily
The effects of stress can severely impact all aspects of health and wellbeing, so finding healthy ways to minimize stress is crucial to living well. Obviously, the best way to minimize stress is to avoid those triggers that cause your anxiety. Of course, that may be impossible in some instances, such as children and work, but finding alternative ways to identify, address, and mitigate those triggers is the first step in minimizing the adverse effects of stress.
Second, finding time every day to relax and bring joy will help “tip the scales” back to a more balanced approach in your life. You can take up hobbies such as painting, music, or other creative expressions. Exercise is an excellent way to help channel your stress into a positive gain. Exercise will challenge the skeletal-muscular system, lower blood pressure and post-activity, boost moods, and help regulate negatively impacting hormones.
Other people may find peace and relaxation through alternative therapeutics such as retail therapy, a form of treatment that enhances a positive stimulus through shopping to help regulate emotional triggers. For example, as a form of self-care, you could choose to pamper yourself by purchasing clothes that make you look and feel beautiful, raising self-esteem at the same time.
Whatever form of self-care and therapy you choose to mitigate the adverse effects of stress on your body, it’s a process of daily self-love and care that is necessary to achieve a happy, healthy life.
Images by Federica Putelli with styling from Enrica Lamonaca for DSCENE Magazine, originally published in DSCENE Love Issue.