You may assume that stress is just part and parcel of being a parent. And, to a certain extent, it’s true. In small doses, a little stress can actually do us good, at home and at work. It can prevent us from becoming complacent and resting on our laurels. It can remind us how clever and resourceful we really are as we find creative solutions to problems as they present themselves. It can help us to feel focused and in control of the situation (whether it’s dealing with a toddler tantrum in a busy supermarket, or defusing a situation with an irate customer at work).
And while this “good stress” is indeed nothing to be afraid of, and even embraced, stress can easily become chronic. And this chronic stress can be very bad for us in mind and body. It can alter our behaviour, sabotage our relationships and even damage our health in some very serious ways.
Let’s take a look at some of the scary things that stress can do to your body…
It makes your weight fluctuate.
If you’re trying to stay in shape, stress can prove a frustrating obstacle to your health and fitness goals. Some people find that stress causes them to lose weight. In some it acts as an appetite suppressant and boost the metabolism. Others, however, find that chronic stress inevitably leads to weight gain.
Stress increases the body’s production of the hormone cortisol. This hormone makes us store more fat, especially around the belly. What’s more, in stressful situations, many of us turn to our favourite comfort foods to bring us solace and good feelings.
As such, chronic stress can lead to both weight loss and weight gain. One thing’s for sure, unless you take active steps to manage your stress it can be very difficult to see consistent gains in your exercise and diet regimen. The good news is, if you’re taking the time to exercise regularly, either alone or with the family, you’re already taking a big step to reduce stress.
It wreaks havoc with your skin.
Stress cares little for your comprehensive skincare regimen. It can be extremely frustrating to look after your skin when the effects of stress can leave such an indelible a mark on it. Stress can cause hives and other kinds of unpleasant blotch rashes. It can also aggravate conditions like rosacea, psoriasis and eczema.
If you’re living with acne, prolonged stress can lead to more frequent flare ups. While it doesn’t directly lead to breakouts of acne, it does lead to the conditions that cause acne to flare up (i.e. increased oiliness). Over the counter skincare treatments may not be sufficient to combat aggressive flare ups of acne which are exacerbated by stress. You may be better served buying a prescription treatment like Zineryt acne treatment from an online pharmacy. This can help to mitigate the effects of acne, and clear flareups of skin and reduce the anxiety that they can cause.
Yet, while this may help in the short term, the best long term solution is to find your own way to battle the effects of stress.
It keeps you awake at night.
Good sleep is an integral part of good health. While you sleep, your body carries out all kinds of essential maintenance and repairs that keep your body and your mind in good health. But if you’re not taking steps to relieve your stress, you may find that you’re left lying awake late at night, thrashing around in frustration, struggling to sleep.
What’s more, if your job and your lifestyle mean that you spend much of your day looking into a screen, this can make matters worse. The blue light from smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs and other devices can inhibit the brain’s production of melatonin, disrupting your body clock and preventing restfulness.
It can wreak havoc with your sex life.
Busy parents often feel as though there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. They may spent so much time putting out metaphorical fires at home and at work that they may feel as though it’s impossible to make time for one another. Stress can make this delicate matter worse. First of all, it can prove devastating to your libido, leaving you too tired and grumpy for intimacy. It can also make you irritable and quick to lose your temper at your significant other, creating friction in your relationship and alienating you from an essential part of your support network.
While you may balk at assigning a specific time or day for intimacy, it’s vital that you and your partner find the time to appreciate one another physically. A lack of intimacy can drive a wedge between you and make a stressful situation worse.
It increases our risk of getting ill…
Stress wears down your immune system, and in the current climate, this is something we should all be taking active steps to avoid. It can increase our chances of catching colds, flu and other nasty bugs. Including a certain respiratory condition you may have heard about.
… and getting really ill.
Not only can stress make you more vulnerable to bugs and viruses, it also triggers the body’s inflammatory response. While inflammation is a perfectly natural response to injury and part of the healing process, when we’re bombarded with stress from all angles, our inflammatory response doesn’t get the chance to switch off. As such, it can increase our risk of some of the world’s most dangerous chronic diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even some forms of cancer.
So… what are you going to do about it?
If you feel as though stress is starting to have an adverse effect on your body, there are lots of things that you can do to mitigate its effects. Regular exercise is one. A healthy diet is another, as sugary, fatty and salty processed foods can exacerbate the effects of stress. There are lots of other things you can do to relieve stress like practicing mindfulness meditation, taking walks in nature and simply concentrating on your breathing (which has a knock-on effect on pretty much everything else your body does. As busy and often hectic as your life may be, you’re never powerless to protect yourself from the effects of stress!