Constant sources of bad news combined with difficulties in your personal life can make you feel incredibly stressed out. If you’re experiencing a ton of stress, you’re not alone. 20% of Americans report being under extreme stress, and 31% say their stress has increased a considerable amount recently.
Most people know that too much stress can seriously impact your health. Too much stress can cause health issues from digestive issues to memory problems and a weakened immune system.
But how can you know if you’re under too much stress? Your body will start to show symptoms that you might not have an explanation for, and your cognitive function may decline. Here are some concrete ways to tell if you’re under too much stress.
Are you experiencing more aches and pains than normal? Do you feel like you catch every cold that goes around? Chances are good that you’re dealing with too much stress. If you can recognize which symptoms are caused by stress, you can avoid costly visits to the doctor’s office that don’t yield any results.
Stress can wreak havoc on our bodies. When left unchecked for a long period of time, stress can cause or worsen diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Sources of acute stress increase your heart rate and cause your heart muscle to contract with more force. Your blood vessels dilate in an effort to send more blood to the parts of your body that need to move in the face of danger.
When you’re dealing with chronic stress, your heart rate is consistently high, and your blood pressure increases in relation to your dilated blood vessels. This can lead to heart attack, hypertension, or stroke.
There are a number of hormones involved when your body goes into a state of stress. When your brain sees sources of stress, it activates your autonomic nervous system, which in turn releases epinephrine and cortisol into your body.
In order to prepare for upcoming danger, your liver releases more glucose, or blood sugar, to provide energy to either fight or flee. When this happens on a chronic basis, it can lead to Type 2 diabetes in those prone to the disease.
Your digestive system is one of the first parts of your body affected by high levels of stress. If you’re familiar with the phrase ‘worried sick,’ you might have experienced stomach pain or heartburn when you’re worried about something.
Stress causes your brain to become more aware of the sensations in your stomach. This leads to things like having nervous butterflies, or feeling like you might throw up if you have to give a presentation in front of a large group of people. It can also after your intestines and lead to constipation or diarrhea.
Nervous system effects
Your nervous system plays a big part in your stress response. When your brain perceives sources of danger, it activates the sympathetic nervous system, which provides your body with the burst of energy it needs to get out of danger.
When your brain doesn’t stop receiving signals of danger, the sympathetic nervous system is constantly going. This prevents the parasympathetic nervous system from kicking in, which is what allows your body to rest and digest. If this system isn’t allowed to function, you might suffer from chronically high heart rate, intestinal issues, and will have a hard time relaxing.
Reproductive system effects
Stress hormones have a way of messing with the hormones in your reproductive system. When you are in the middle of a stressful situation, your body needs to take resources from wherever it can and deliver them to your muscles so you can get to safety quickly. If you’re running from a bear, you don’t need your reproductive system to work!
However, our brains don’t realize that many sources of our stress aren’t an immediate danger to us. When we’re stressed out all of the time, the brain releases hormones that directly interfere with the function of the reproductive system. This can lead to irregular or painful periods, genital discomfort, and difficulty getting pregnant.
You’re Having Trouble Sleeping
When you’re stressed out, your body has a hard time shutting down. Sources of stress cause your brain to think that you need to be alert in case you need to make a quick break for it. When your mind is constantly receiving this message, it’s difficult for it to shut down at the end of the day. This can affect your sleep and make it difficult for you to get the levels you need.
Not getting enough sleep can seriously mess with your health. Sleeping is how your brain recharges, how you form memories and connections, and it allows your body to recover from the wear and tear of the day. 42% of Americans feel like their sleep quality is too poor to help them get the rest they need. This often leads to other problems, like feeling sluggish or not alert throughout the day. Drowsy driving causes 72,000 accidents each year.
Stress makes it difficult for your brain to shut down when it’s time to sleep. Worries and stress about situations you might have a hard time getting out of prevent your brain from relaxing and shutting down for the night. This can often lead to a cycle of losing sleep, making it difficult for you to get the rest you need to deal with the sources of stress in your life.
You Can’t Concentrate
Stress seriously interferes with your ability to focus. This is because your brain suppresses the functions in your frontal lobe that make it possible for you to think, such as concentration, inhibition, rational thought, and short-term memory.Stress can also degrade the structure of the hippocampus which is where your mind stores memories, which are important to focusing and learning processes.
Interestingly enough, short bursts of stress can improve your ability to think. However, chronic stress diminishes your ability to concentrate at work or school, as it requires more energy from your body to do tasks that used to be easy.
You Get More Irritable
Do you find that you’re more likely to snap at your loved ones when you’re under a lot of stress? You’re not alone. Mood swings and irritability come when you face too much pressure at work or in your personal life.
The hippocampus is also responsible for regulating your emotions. When this part of the brain is hampered, you lose your ability to keep your emotions in check. This can lead to developing bad feelings that you can’t address, or constant mood swings from your hormones being out of control.
Chronic stress left unchecked for long enough can even worsen or lead to developing anxiety, bipolar, depression, and personality changes.
Even though it might feel like there’s nothing you can do, you don’t have to live in a constant state of stress. Spire offers breathing trackers that have been proven to reduce stress. The activity and force sensors work together to identify when you’re feeling tense, and when you’re feeling calm. The app then can guide you through breathing exercise during periods of tension, and help remind you when you’re doing well during states of clam.
When used in a clinical setting, spire has been shown to increase heart rate variability, lower blood pressure, and reduce levels of anxiety and pain.
Spire has two solutions to help you reduce your stress levels. The spire stone measures your breath by tracking the expansions and contractions of your torso. The health tag easily affixes to your clothes and doesn’t require any charging, simply affix it to your clothes and be on your way.