Recently, I found myself struggling to stay awake, complete the tasks I needed to get done, falling asleep during a shower and barely eating anything in a day. What I have been experiencing lately reminds me of having the flu, a cold or just some sort of physical discomfort. But with no direct cause present, like dressing poorly in cold weather, it made me begin to wonder if something deeper was affecting my mind and body.
Stress is commonly known as the “silent killer” half of the time, but the other half of the time it can display obvious warning signs of potential illness beforehand. It can be anything from a daily hassle like running late for work because of slow public transit, to major life events like having children. I have seen many people handle the scariest and difficult situation one month, and then they bounce back onto their feet finding alternative ways to enhance their lives again. At other times, I’ve both seen and experienced so many out of control life events in which one’s mental and physical state rapidly deteriorates. Are you one of the many people who are especially affected by stress in your life, whether temporary or permanent?
One psychological theory states that some people are more affected by stress as opposed to their peers, because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, genetic predisposition that increase the chances of you perceiving an event as stressful; or living in an environment with no social or emotional support (Brannon & Feist, 2010). The genetic vulnerability aspect means that you may have a higher chance of experiencing stress-induced sickness because it is prone to run in your bloodline.
This is called The Diathesis-stress model, where two factors must occur:
(1) You must have a genetic vulnerability that increases odds of you getting sick or facing a disease
(2) Be undergoing a period of stress, whether a long or short-term
Signs of Stress-induced Sickness
At times we react emotionally and thus face mental stress about a situation, which we identify as feeling blue or sad. On the other hand, our bodies physically respond to stressful events, in which we might notice a loss of energy or aches around your body. These are common physical & mental signs and reactions one can go through when stress is the culprit to your latest exposure to sickness.
Tension bound up can create headaches, so if you’re noticing a lot more headaches recently it may be that stress is indeed taking a toll on you. Headaches are usually the initial sign that your body is responding to some form of stress. Tension builds around your head, as a signal to your brain to start getting stress levels under control. Finding a healthy way to cope with stress often eliminates these nagging pains.
High Blood Pressure
Stress is linked to raising one’s blood pressure, as tension causes a strain on your internal arteries and veins. Additionally eating foods high in salt can raise blood pressure, which can sometimes cause your chest to feel tighter. Change in eating habits may reflect the recent onset of stress because your normal appetite has changed in response to your stressful environment.
Experiencing chronic stress weakens your immune system and can negatively impact other areas like your nervous systems. This change can sometimes create a chemical imbalance in your brain (Brannon & Feist, 2010). Infrequent exposure to stress does not necessarily lead to one catching a cold, but constant environmental or emotional stress passed a month, increases chances of both getting and remaining sick. Since the healing mechanisms in our bodies have become affected, it is unable to ward off the presence of new germs. Being stressed out also increases the chance of a cold or flu progressing into something more severe, as opposed to returning to a healthy state. Other bacteria’s that can onset include viruses, pneumonia, urinary tract infection, herpes, and hepatitis.
Asthma can cause difficulty breathing, create inflammation and make your airway irritated by most things in your everyday environment. Stress may stem from intense emotional events going in your life or physical pain or injury. Those two factors together can trigger the risk of more asthma attacks, consequently presenting more stress due to your asthma becoming more severe than normal. Stress can keep you in a state of panic or uneasiness, thus making your body become more sensitive to perceived allergens in the air.
Anxiety & Depression
Consistent stressful conditions can make a person more likely to experience depression or anxiety, than the average neighbor. If stress is making you feel sadness or fear it can then manifest itself into depression or anxiety, as mental and physical responses. How we are able to cope or not cope with stress is vital in understanding why some face depression, while others do not. Lack of coping can additionally heighten one’s risk of developing depression or anxiety while enduring a stressful event because they are constantly perceiving their surroundings as a threat.
The All in All
Experiencing many of these reactions can hint at stress being the culprit to the change in your well-being. It is important to consider the notion that going through long-term stress has more impact on one’s health than facing short-term stress (e.g daily hassle of riding the bus) does. Looking into your biological family history can help you determine where you stand on genetic vulnerability towards developing sickness under a constantly stressful environment. Understanding the changes in physical and psychological states can give you the foot up on handling and combating your high-stress levels.
Thank You For Reading, Cheers.
About Lakeisha Angelika
Based in Toronto, Ontario -- Lakeisha Angelika is mental health & wellness freelance blogger, with a background in Psychology. She shares informative and helpful articles on ways to boost quality of life, manage mental illness and issues surrounding the psychological community. Lakeisha Angelika also designs illustrations and posters that compliment her written text.