For humans, stress is a natural reaction to problems that we can’t immediately figure out. When a dangerous or worrisome situation presents itself, our bodies respond by releasing both cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. Cortisol is a regulating hormone that takes control of the body’s nonessential functions so you don’t have to. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and boosts your energy to prepare you to take action. Both of these stress hormones heighten your senses and let you respond to the problem quickly.
Normally, after the stressful situation has ended, the body is supposed to stop pumping out the two hormones and slowly return back to normal. You regain your calm and composure and can go back to your natural, relaxed state until the next time something threatening happens. Stress presented and resolved in this way is healthy, and even good for you. It’s all a survival instinct meant to keep you from falling slack and never solving any of your problems–stressing over when a project is due should help to motivate you to get it done, for example.
Encountering a problem, releasing hormones, resolving the conflict, and calming back down is generally how a normal stress cycle is supposed to work, but for many people, this isn’t the case. Nowadays, many people are stressed about one thing or another almost all the time. Their problems are never resolved, so they never get a break to calm down, and they end up with an overabundance of cortisol and adrenaline.
Countless researchers, from everyday journalists to celebrated doctors to the thousands that contribute to the Mayo Clinic, all agree that too much stress can be extremely harmful to both physical and mental health. In excess, the hormone cortisol can increase a person’s chances of anxiety, depression, headaches, memory loss, weight changes, heart disease, digestion problems, sleep problems, and more.
Even though there have been multiple studies in the past few years showing that stress levels are much higher than they used to be, heavy stress has become so commonplace in modern society that it’s seen as a default, normal state. With such an attitude surrounding stress, a lot of people don’t even realize that they’ve become overcome by it for way too long. To help combat that fate for yourself, check yourself for these common signs of stress that you might have been ignoring.
Continue Reading »