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Effect of stress on period: Psychosocial stress and the menstrual cycle

How stress may alter your period

Updated

29 June 2022

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Published

21 June 2022

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Reviewed by EBCOG, the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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Stress can mess with your cycle in lots of different ways. Here an OB-GYN explains why, what kinds of changes you may notice, and when you can expect things to return to normal

This article was created in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine for people living in a crisis zone. Any information given below is done so with these circumstances in mind. If you’d like to read this piece in Ukrainian then you can do so for free in the Flo app.

Most people know that stress can have a powerful impact on their mental health. But did you know it can also have a significant effect on your physical health too? Yeah, it really does. And this includes our menstrual cycles, too.

You may notice stress changes your period. Maybe it comes early, doesn’t show up at all, or your cramps are more painful.

We spoke to OB-GYN (obstetrician and gynecologist) Dr. Barbara Levy to learn why and how stress can alter your cycle. She also explains when your cycle might return to normal and how to minimize stress.

Stress and period: How can stress mess with your period?

Here are some of the changes you might notice:

  • A delayed period
  • An early period
  • A missed period
  • A more painful period
  • Worse PMS (premenstrual syndrome)

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Stress and period: Why does this happen?

These changes could be caused by emotional or physical stress (or both). It could be because you haven’t slept or eaten enough or because you’re physically exhausted, worried, or overwhelmed. And it’s these stressors that can affect your brain chemistry. 

When you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. High levels of cortisol make the hypothalamus (the part of your brain that controls your menstrual cycle) stop ovulation in its tracks. As ovulation is key to having a period, this can affect when — and if — your period starts.

We don’t know why, but everyone reacts differently to stress. Some people will notice these changes immediately. For others, they may take longer to kick in. And some people might never notice a physical response to stress at all.

And as some people are more sensitive to stress than others, it’s impossible to predict which kinds of stress (short term, long term, mild, moderate, severe) will lead to a change in your cycle. However, we do know that people with anxiety and depression are more likely to be stressed.

“Most people’s periods will return to normal within one cycle”

Stress and period: When will your cycle return to normal?

These changes shouldn’t be long term. “Typically, once we stop producing large amounts of the stress hormones, the changes will resolve,” Dr. Levy explains. 

She adds that most people’s periods will return to normal within one cycle after the stressors are gone.

Stress and period: What can you do if stress is impacting your cycle?

“My advice is to learn techniques for managing our response to stress, rather than trying to eliminate those things that stress us,” Dr. Levy says. “Some people can’t escape their stress. We can manage ourselves far better than controlling our environment or other people.”

These techniques can help limit your body’s release of stress hormones:

  • Breathing exercises. You can try this simple calming breathing technique that can be done standing, sitting, or lying down. Whichever position you’re in, place your feet hip-width apart. Breathe in gently through your nose, letting your breath flow into your stomach as deep as is comfortable. You may find it helpful to count from one to five as you breathe in. (If you can’t reach five at first, that’s OK!) Breathe out gently and count to five again. Repeat this for three to five minutes. 
  • Mindfulness meditation. This technique is all about tuning in to — and being aware of — the present moment. And you can practice it anywhere, whether you’re sitting still or on the move. Wherever you are, try being quiet while paying attention to how your body feels as you breathe in and out, the sounds around you, and what you can smell or taste. If your mind wanders or gets lost in thought, gently bring your attention back to the present. It can be helpful to do this exercise at the same time every day. 

You could also try:

  • Stretching
  • Connecting with others and talking about how you’re feeling
  • Taking breaks from news stories
  • Sticking to a sleep schedule, where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, as much as possible under the circumstances
  • Moving more and sitting less, even if you are in a limited area
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Limiting how much alcohol you drink
  • Avoiding using drugs/substances in ways other than prescribed 

When and if possible, contact a health care professional if the changes last for more than one cycle.  

“You may think stress is causing the change, but other medical conditions should be ruled out,” Dr. Levy says. Besides your periods, long-term stress can lead to other serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, prediabetes, and obesity, if left untreated. 

Less frequently, it’s possible to develop a condition called post-traumatic stress. This can mimic similar episodes in the future and may require specialized medical assistance.

Stress and period: The takeaway

Remember “stress is a part of being alive, and our bodies are well protected from most of the short-term impacts of stress — including weird periods,” Dr. Levy adds. 

“That said, anyone who feels overwhelmed, out of control, or unable to function should seek medical help [when and] if they are able to.”

References


 “Breathing Exercises for Stress.” NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/breathing-exercises-for-stress/. Accessed 21 June 2022.

“Coping with Stress.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Mar. 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/stress-coping/cope-with-stress/. Accessed 21 June 2022.

“Get Help with Stress.” NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/stress. Accessed 21 June 2022.

Gollenberg, Audra L., et al. “Perceived Stress and Severity of Perimenstrual Symptoms: The BioCycle Study.” Journal of Women’s Health , vol. 19, no. 5, May 2010, pp. 959–67. Accessed 21 June 2022.

“Mindfulness.” NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/tips-and-support/mindfulness/. Accessed 21 June 2022.

“Relaxation Techniques: What You Need To Know.” NCCIH, https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/relaxation-techniques-what-you-need-to-know. Accessed 21 June 2022. Accessed 21 June 2022.

History of updates

Current version
(29 June 2022)

Reviewed by EBCOG, the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

21 June 2022

Can Stress Cause a Missed or Late Period?

Is stress behind your irregular or missed period? Here’s how to tell.

Stress and periods go together like tea and cake – but not in a good way. As if getting your period wasn’t anxiety-inducing enough (time to get the hot water bottle out, yet again), stress can also cause major changes to your period and menstrual cycle, namely delaying it. A recent study found that high levels of stress can cause irregular periods.

Now isn’t that ironic.

Stressing about not getting or missing your period can actually make you not get your period. It’s a real chicken-and-egg scenario. Or, in this case, stress-about-the-not-fertilised-egg and the not-fertilised-egg scenario.

Stress less and use our period tracker to know when your period is due to start and end.

Can stress bring on a period?

Even if you rarely have to deal with irregular periods, sometimes stress can throw a spanner in the works and mess up your whole menstrual cycle, causing it to be early or late. Stress levels often affect the part of your brain that controls your hormone levels – the hypothalamus – which means the stress you’re experiencing may cause your period to come when you’re not expecting it – which means it’s possible that your period will come early. There’s also a link between women working stressful jobs and having short cycles (less than 24 days).

Can stress cause a missed or late period?

When your body is so under pressure trying to keep you calm and reacting to what’s happening around you, you can become anxious, and then your body’s hormones hold off on critical parts of your menstrual cycle, like ovulation. Think about it from a cavewoman perspective. Stress causes your body to go into fight-or-flight mode, and if you’re running from a giant woolly mammoth, it makes sense that your body would be less concerned about having a baby in that moment and hit pause on keeping your reproductive system ready to go. So although this does introduce a whole new set of stress, your body probably thinks that Cavewoman-you would likely not have time to even think about why your period was late.

In an ideal scenario though, you wouldn’t be so anxious that your body interprets your stress level as running-from-woolly-mammoth-high, but you get the picture.

How long can stress delay your period? Can it stop your period completely?

Stress can delay your period, but the good news is that stress shouldn’t completely stop your period. If you’ve gone more than six weeks (the amount of time it takes to classify a period as fully “missed”) since your last period, it may be time to see a doctor and make sure everything is okay.

Can stress cause spotting?

Absolutely. That fight-or-flight response we mentioned above isn’t limited to just shutting your period down or delaying it for a few days. Stress can also cause spotting, which is when you kind of have a little bit of blood coming out (you might notice it when you use the bathroom or wipe), but not enough to qualify as a full period. This often happens between periods, leading to confusion.

Okay, you’re right, I’ve been under a lot of pressure recently. How do I fix my menstrual cycle so that stress doesn’t impact it anymore?

As great as it would be if there were a way to communicate to your body that you’re done worrying and ready for your period to come, it’s easier said than done. Make sure you’re taking time for yourself to do things you like and enjoy. Yes, ‘doing you’ might just be exactly what your body (including your entire reproductive system and menstrual cycle) needs right now.

And if worrying about whether your period is late or not is the number one thing that’s bothering you and keeping you up at night, it might be worth booking an appointment to see the doctor. Ringing up to make the appointment might be a bit of a pain, but the peace of mind you’ll feel afterwards if you are able to find a cause and remedy it (or at least be soothed by your doctor and told, “It’s no big deal” by someone qualified) may be worth it.

What are some other possible reasons behind my irregular period? What are some common late period causes besides stress?

There are a lot of factors besides stress that can impact your menstrual cycle and cause a delayed or late period, like pregnancy, contraception (both starting and stopping contraception can throw your system off-balance for a while), menopause, weight loss, and too much exercise. Hormone changes could also be a reason why your period is late that you may want to discuss with your doctor.

Stress and its impact on health » Medvestnik

In everyday life, the word “stress” is often used as a synonym for strong excitement, experiences. But this concept is much broader. Stress is the body’s reaction to any irritating influences: problems at work, exams, hunger, lack of sleep, even fluctuations in atmospheric pressure. For many people, such stresses interfere with normal psychological, physical, and social functioning.

Long-term stress damages the body’s self-regulation mechanisms and leads to subsequent disturbances in biorhythms. The natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness changes, as a result, efficiency and self-control decrease, memory and attention deteriorate. Daily fluctuations in the level of hormones, rhythms of breathing and heartbeat are also violated. Chronic stress weakens the immune system, suppresses protective reactions and barrier functions of the cells of the gastrointestinal tract and skin, which complicates the course and prognosis of any somatic diseases, including infectious ones [Aki Takahashi 1, 2, 3 , Meghan E Flanigan 2 , Bruce S McEwen 3 , Scott J Russo 2 Aggress ion, Social Stress, and the Immune System in Humans and Animal Models Front Behav Neurosci . 2018 Mar 22;12:56.

Alexandrovsky Yu.A., Chekhonin V.P. Clinical immunology of borderline mental disorders M.: GEOTAR-Media; 2005, 235 pp.].

As a result, stress increases the risk of the so-called “diseases of civilization” and contributes to their development: arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus, bronchial asthma, chronic pain, immune disorders, and many others [Hellhammer D.H., Hellhammer J. Stress: the brain-body connection / volume editors, Dirk H. Hellhammer, Juliane Hellhammer. Key issues in mental health, 2008, ISSN 1662-4874; p. 174].

The causes of stress in modern man are varied. They can be divided into three main groups:

  1. Significant life changes;
  2. Relationship difficulties. If some conflicts are normal, and from time to time this is a healthy characteristic of human relationships, then chronic and unresolved conflicts, which are characterized by relationship difficulties, are the causes of significant personal stress and pose a serious risk to the mental and somatic health of the patient [Duckworth A. L., Kim B ., Tsukayama E. Life stress impairs selfcontrol in early adolescence. Front . Psychol . 2012; 3:608];
  3. High risk working conditions. In an urbanized society, work can be a significant cause of stress for the employed population, as well as for their families, because the effects of work stress can be carried into the home environment. Workplace stress can lead to other outcomes (consequences), such as accidents, accidents, drug and alcohol problems.

The degree of health risk associated with these life events depends, in part, on life habits, coping strategies, and previous experience with preventive stress management practices. These factors significantly help offset the risks associated with stressful events.

The processes occurring in the body during stress are universal and the same for all people. When we are affected by one or another stressor, changes occur in the brain, the work of the endocrine and nervous systems. The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream. They make you look for a way out of the situation, at the level of not only the brain, but the whole body. To cope with this task, all cells become excited. Some of them release a special substance – histamine, which can cause skin redness and itching. Muscle tissue cells begin to contract more actively, while a person has tachycardia or intestinal motility increases, and he has an irresistible desire to go to the toilet (popularly called “bear disease”). Someone has a reaction from the vessels: blood pressure rises, red spots appear on the body or face. Someone begins to sweat actively – this means that stress hormones have activated the autonomic nervous system. What kind of manifestations a particular person will have depends on his individual characteristics. In particular, from how he was taught to respond to stress in childhood. For example, a child whose mother had a headache against the background of excitement fixes this and, becoming an adult, gives the same reaction himself.

Another example could be given. In most cases, against the background of strong nervous tension, people lose their appetite – this is the effect of stress hormones. However, if the baby, as soon as he cried, was immediately given a pacifier, in the future he will most likely become, on the contrary, eating a lot under stress. Or, smoking. In general, calm down by occupying your mouth with something.

Thus, stress can be dangerous and becomes a problem when a person is out of control and has poor stress management.

But neither “bear disease”, nor a moderate increase in blood pressure, nor even overeating on the background of stress should be considered a disease. In general, these are normal reactions, so there is no need to run to a gastroenterologist or cardiologist. Another question is if all these manifestations cause severe discomfort, disorientation. A person needs to answer the exam, but he unbearably wants to go to the toilet. You need to speak in front of an audience, and he is covered with sweat. Once having got into such a situation, a person fixes it, remembers bodily sensations. In the future, knowing that an exciting event awaits him, he begins to expect physical troubles, this gives rise to fear in him. And fear further enhances the release of stress hormones into the blood, and intestinal motility, palpitations, sweating come even faster. Each time the problem grows, and it becomes impossible to get out of this vicious circle on your own.

Of course, you shouldn’t bring yourself to such a state. Someone smart said a funny phrase: if you don’t know how to relieve stress, don’t wear it. Do you feel that your stomach is twisted due to excitement or your entire back is wet? Do not fixate on this state, but try to get out of it as soon as possible. Very simple tricks help calm the nerves. Make a few swings with your arms or legs with a large amplitude, run a “hundred-meter race”. Physical activity allows you to get rid of excess stress hormones in the blood, and bodily manifestations of excitement become less vivid.

It is also very important to increase the overall resistance to stress. By the way, this is not at all blissful calmness and indifference to stress, but the ability to adequately respond to it and recover. After the body has mobilized to solve a particular problem, each of its cells needs to rest, recover, otherwise it may simply die. To do this, she needs energy and the ability to properly spend and store this energy.

Energy enters the body only with food. The more balanced it is in terms of essential nutrients, as well as the so-called anti-stress components (magnesium, B vitamins, lecithin, iodine, omega, etc.), the higher the resistance to stress, and, consequently, the adaptation to environmental stress. Be sure to eat foods that are rich in these vitamins and minerals, or consume them in the form of food supplements. In order to better navigate the sea of ​​various products yourself, you can look at the popular website of the international online platform for natural products for health and beauty – iHerb. Here is a huge selection of natural ready-made anti-stress formulas (more than 100 types of dietary supplements) that increase stress resistance and contain magnesium, selenium, omega-3 PUFAs, B vitamins (thiamine, pyridoxine), vitamin C, probiotic systems that restore intestinal microbiota, which increases the immunity of the whole organism, as well as herbal complexes for relieving tension and relaxation, restoring sleep, such as ashwagandha.

The use of these complexes will increase the energy potential of both the brain and each cell of the body, restore adaptive resources, as well as support immune activity during stress, and become resistant to various infectious factors. And the excitement will not unsettle you.

The effect of stress on the body | Blog Anti-Age Expert

Work, children, career, relationship difficulties – the list of sources of stress only gets longer over the years. And in moments of special experiences, the hypothalamus, the “checkpoint” of the brain, “turns on”. In tense situations, its task is to release stress hormones. At such moments, we feel how the heart is pounding, breathing quickens and muscles contract …

This reaction of the body helps to protect it in an emergency, preparing it to react as quickly as possible. But when stress is repeated day after day, it is devastating to health.

Experts call stress the “silent killer.” Let’s figure out what its danger is and how to avoid serious consequences.

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What is stress

Stress is a natural physical reaction to life situations. Sometimes it is useful and even necessary, especially when an immediate or short-term response is required, such as in potentially dangerous circumstances. Your body responds to stress by increasing your heart rate and breathing rate and supplying oxygen to your muscles.

If this physiological response persists for weeks and stress levels remain high for longer than necessary, it can be detrimental to health.

However, in most cases, people do not pay attention to stress, while it takes a heavy toll on them. That is why it is important to know what its signs and symptoms are, as well as what the effect on the body is.

Types of stress

There are three types of stress: acute, episodic acute and chronic.

Let’s see what their differences are:

  • Acute stress.

    It is the most experienced and arises as a result of the demands that we place on ourselves or others. Usually appears before an exciting moment, conflict, difficult situation, etc.

    To some extent, this type of stress can be positive because it stimulates motivation and can serve as a defense mechanism. However, if you cross the line, it can lead to exhaustion and serious health consequences, both physical and mental.

  • Chronic stress.

    This is the type of stress that most often affects people who find themselves in prisons, conditions of poverty, wars and circumstances that require constant vigilance.

    Chronic stress is the most serious and causes significant problems for the psychological health of people suffering from it.

  • Episodic acute stress.

    It affects people who set unrealistic goals for themselves and try to follow the requirements of society. Episodic acute stress is characterized by constant anxiety and a feeling of lack of control over the fulfillment of any requirement. A characteristic feature of people in episodic stress is anxiety about the future and a tendency to anticipate events.

Physical symptoms of stress

There are several typical signs of stress that can make themselves felt through physical well-being, namely:

  • Headache;

  • circulatory problems;

  • Cardiopalmus;

  • Voltage;

  • Abdominal pain;

  • Stomach upset;

  • sleep disorders;

  • Dizziness;

  • Frequent colds;

  • Poor or, conversely, increased appetite.

Psychological symptoms of stress

Stress is not limited to bodily manifestations. Here are his characteristic psychological symptoms:

  • Nervousness;

  • Hypersensitivity;

  • Feelings of helplessness and depression;

  • Pessimism;

  • Despondency;

  • Difficulty concentrating;

  • Forgetfulness or difficulty in facing new phenomena.

Due to such a variety of symptoms, stress can affect not only the state of health in general, but also all areas of life.

What factors provoke a state of stress

There are two types of factors that can cause stress:

  1. External stimuli: economic problems, family problems, overwork, fear, etc.

  2. Internal irritants: pain, illness, feelings of inferiority, sociological and other problems.

Causes of stress

More and more people are suffering from stress, especially in big cities where you have to live at high speeds.

The Whole Living Journal published a study revealing the main causes of stress:

  • Lack of money and financial obligations.

  • Work overload.

  • Lack of job satisfaction.

  • disharmony in personal relationships.

  • Family anxiety.

  • The inability to say “no”.

  • Lack of free time.

  • Obsession with perfection.

  • Lack of motivation.

Regardless of the cause, it is very important to learn how to manage stress.

Stages of stress

There are 3 main stages of stress:

1. Mobilization phase. This is an immediate response to a dangerous or difficult situation. At this point, the heart rate increases, hormones such as cortisol are released, and the body receives an energetic boost of adrenaline to help it respond.

2. Resistance phase. After the first exposure to stress, the body needs to relax and return to normal. However, if we do not overcome the situation that generates stress, the body remains vigilant and gets used to high levels of blood pressure and hormones.

3. Exhaustion phase. At this stage, stress becomes chronic, and it becomes increasingly difficult for the body to deal with it. Its impact is felt emotionally and physically through various reactions:


Stressful situations happen to us inevitably, but if we find a way to deal with them, many of their negative effects can be avoided or at least reduced.

Health problems resulting from stress

Emotional overstrain can literally hit almost all organs and systems. Let’s take a closer look at how stress affects our body.

  • Effect of stress on the muscular system. When we are under great stress, our muscles tense up as a physical reaction to the load. This automatic response is the body’s way of protecting itself from pain and injury. Only when the initial stress passes does our musculoskeletal system begin to relax and release the accumulated tension.

    This build-up of tension can also lead to headaches and more severe migraine attacks. Most headaches, mild to moderate, are often caused by tension in the muscles of the head, neck, and shoulders.

    Over time, these stress-related pains can create a vicious cycle. Some people stop exercising because of these discomforts and take painkillers. However, due to inactivity, muscle atrophy can exacerbate chronic diseases of the musculoskeletal system. After all, the human body is designed to move and be active, which is why many doctors recommend exercise to reduce muscle tension and reduce stress-related strain on the musculoskeletal system.

  • The effect of stress on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The long-term effects of stress generally lead to a wide range of cardiovascular problems. Stress hormones (adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol) cause blood vessels to constrict to send more oxygen and energy to the muscles. But it also raises blood pressure. As a result, frequent or chronic stress causes the heart to work too hard and at too long intervals. The constant fight-or-flight response takes a toll on the human body, leading to an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks.

    In addition, ongoing acute stress can contribute to inflammation in the coronary arteries and vessels.

    Thanks to estrogen, women’s blood vessels work better during times of increased stress, thereby protecting them from heart damage. However, postmenopausal estrogen levels are greatly reduced, and the female body becomes more susceptible to the effects of stress.

    Stress hormones also affect the respiratory system. During the physiological response to stress, breathing speeds up to distribute oxygen-rich blood throughout the body as quickly as possible. But if you have breathing problems like asthma or emphysema, stress can make your condition worse.

  • Effect of stress on the central nervous system. The central nervous system (CNS) is responsible for the body’s reaction to danger (“fight or flight”). In the brain, the hypothalamus triggers a response, signaling the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. These stress hormones speed up your heart rate in order to send more blood to your muscles, heart, vital organs, and other parts of the body that need it most in times of danger.

    When the situation is “taken under control”, the hypothalamus should, in theory, signal all of these systems to return to normal. But if this does not happen, or if the source of stress does not disappear, these physiological reactions continue.

    Chronic stress is also associated with behavioral disorders, including eating disorders, alcoholism, drug addiction, and social isolation.

  • Effect of stress on the digestive system. When you are under stress, the liver increases the production of blood sugar (glucose) to give the body an energy boost. But when it comes to chronic stress, the body cannot adapt to the frequent spikes in blood sugar. It is for this reason that chronic stress contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes.

    Elevated heart rate, rapid breathing, and stress hormones can also disrupt the digestive system. And because of the increased acidity in the stomach, the risk of acid reflux and heartburn increases. Note that stress alone does not cause ulcers, which are most commonly caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. However, stress increases the risk of developing an ulcer and can worsen an existing one.

    Increased nervous tension can also lead to diarrhea or constipation. Finally, people under stress can also suffer from nausea, vomiting, and indigestion.

  • Effects of stress on sexuality and the reproductive system. It exhausts both the body and the mind. Those under constant stress often experience a significant loss of libido. True, in humans, short-term stress increases testosterone production, but this effect is not sustainable. And with prolonged stress in men, testosterone levels can decrease. Therefore, it can disrupt sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction.

    Chronic stress also increases the risk of infections in the male reproductive organs, especially the prostate and testicles. In women, stress can disrupt the menstrual cycle, leading to irregular, heavier, and more painful periods. Chronic stress can also exacerbate the physiological symptoms of menopause.

  • Effect of stress on the immune system. It stimulates and strengthens the immune system, which is very useful in the face of immediate danger. In particular, strengthening your immune system can help you avoid infections and heal wounds faster. But over time, stress hormones can, on the contrary, weaken the immune system and, therefore, reduce the body’s immune response to “invasions” from the outside.

Thus, people who are chronically stressed are more likely to contract viral illnesses such as the flu, colds, and other infections. Stress can also slow down the healing of various injuries and affect our emotional health.

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How stress can cause depression

It is perfectly normal to experience daily mood swings, ups and downs. But under conditions of chronic stress, the human mind is prone to depression. It happens when a by-product of stress hormones makes us feel tired or exhausted.

This feeling of low energy may persist and negatively affect the desire and ability to perform daily activities. This condition is known as “major depression”.


Major depression symptoms:

  • Insomnia and other sleep problems.

  • Prolonged fatigue, feeling of loss of strength.

  • Increased irritability and arousal.

  • Significant changes in appetite.

  • Feeling worthless.

  • Feelings of guilt and self-hatred.

  • Feelings of hopelessness, which can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Those who suffer from major depression may develop other psychiatric disorders. If you are chronically stressed and have thoughts of self-destruction, seek help. This can either be a doctor or someone you trust and respect.

What makes stress worse

Stress can cause, and in some cases exacerbate, some health problems. For example, these:

  • Depression and anxiety.

  • Pain of any kind in any part of the body.

  • Sleep problems.

  • Autoimmune diseases.

  • Digestive problems.

  • Skin diseases, especially eczema.

  • Cardiovascular disease.

  • Weight gain or loss.

  • reproductive problems.

In addition, emotional overstrain can affect our behavior.

How stress affects behavior and personality

Stress hormones present in the body can damage brain cells. In particular, in the hippocampus, as well as in the frontal lobe. The hippocampus is the area responsible for memory retention, while the frontal lobe is responsible for vigilance (attention) and the use of judgment to solve various problems.

Obviously, those who are repeatedly stressed will subsequently have difficulties:

  • Problems with learning new things;

  • Preservation of newly acquired knowledge;

  • Poor self-discipline;

  • Low concentration;

  • Difficulty in making decisions.

Stress and anxiety go hand in hand. Many people who are stressed have some form of anxiety disorder.

What determines the body’s resistance to stress?

Despite the fact that stress is harmful for everyone, the level of its tolerance varies from person to person. It depends on several factors:

  • “Support group”. A strong bond with family or friends can play an important role in coping with stress. A person who can rely on others is less stressed than a lonely person.

  • Feeling of control. If you are a confident person and believe that you are in control of your life, you are less likely to become a victim of chronic stress compared to a person who “goes with the flow” and blames circumstances for all his failures.

  • Worldview. Life outlook can protect you from chronic stress. If you are an optimistic and hopeful person who is ready to take on the challenges of life, you can easily prevent the harmful effects of stress on your emotional state and on your body.

  • Ability to deal with emotions. If you have the ability to recognize and accept your emotions and deal with them properly, you are much less likely to get caught up in chronic stress. At the same time, neglecting emotions is not at all a way out of stress, as many people think. You must give yourself enough time to deal with your emotions and overcome the detrimental effects of stress on your body.

Coping with stress

According to the American Psychological Association, there are different types of stress, and there is no single method for dealing with them. So everyone has to find their own way.

However, there are a few general guidelines that might work:

  • Move away from the cause of stress temporarily. Once you have identified the situation that is causing you stress, put it off as much as possible. It’s not about avoiding a problem that you must solve, but about giving yourself a break from excessive mental stress.

  • Go in for sports. Exercise regulates physiological processes, helping to cope with stress and anxiety. A 10-year study of 288 families found that those who exercise experienced less anxiety. In addition, they tolerate the first stages of stress more easily than those who do not engage in any physical activity.

    During exercise, the body releases endorphins, which are natural pain relievers produced by our body.

    In addition, hormonal activity decreases, so the body produces less cortisol.

    Exercise makes it easier to fall asleep, so the body and mind get more rest.

    Daily exercise such as walking, dancing or cycling, for example, will help you manage stress better.

  • Practice yoga. Few exercises are as effective as yoga when it comes to stress management. In addition to the benefits of the exercises described above, research has shown that yoga acts as an antidepressant and sedative, as well as relaxing the mind.

    In addition, yoga promotes concentration, which helps to mentally separate yourself from the cause of stress.

  • Meditate. Meditation also helps to relax the body and mind. Focusing on the breath or the environment will force you to momentarily take your mind off the issue that is causing you stress. Taking a step back will open up a new perspective for you.

  • Try natural antidepressants. Infusions of natural herbs such as valerian, green tea or lemon balm have been proven to reduce stress.

  • Do fun and interesting activities with your family or friends.

    Laughter is known to help relieve stress. In addition, listen to music, visit new places with friends or family, and take up hobbies like painting or making crafts. Doing interesting things will keep you out of trouble.

If none of this works, seek professional help.

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Summary

  • Stress is a physiological response to life’s circumstances, but if it persists longer than necessary, it can be detrimental to health.

  • There are three phases of stress: mobilization, resistance, exhaustion.

  • Stress affects the muscular, respiratory, cardiovascular, central nervous, digestive, and reproductive systems.

  • Stress can lead to depression and exacerbate existing health problems, as well as cause new ones.

  • It also influences human behavior.

  • Resilience to stress depends on certain factors.

  • You can minimize the effects of stress with simple guidelines.

References

  1. Martin V. Cohen, Ph.D. “Stress: The Silent Killer” 2000.

  2. Emily Deans M.D. “Stress: The Killer Disease” Psychology Today, 2012.

  3. Steve Tovian, PhD, Beverly Thorn, PhD, Helen Coons, PhD, Susan Labott, PhD, Matthew Burg, PhD, Richard Surwit, PhD, and Daniel Bruns, PsyD. American Psychological Association 2016.

  4. Marissa Maldonado, Sovereign Health Group “How Stress Affects Mental Health” Psych Central, 2017.

  5. National Institutes of Health “5 Things You Should Know About Stress” 2017.

  6. Antoni MH, Baggett L, Ironson G, LaPerriere A, Klimas N, et al. Cognitive behavioral stress management intervention buffers distress responses and elevates immunological markers following notification of HIV-1 seropositivity.