How stress impacts your health just as much as your head.
Stress doesn’t limit itself to the confines of the mind, it makes itself known throughout the body. All too often, stress gets pigeon-holed as an emotion but it’s time to reframe how we see stress and get better at recognising how it shows up in physical form.
What are we all so stressed about?
Apparently, money. As of February 2022, 65% of Americans considered financial worries their biggest source of stress. This is not because we’re all avid gold diggers but more the associations money holds. With money comes safety, security, control and predictability of the future - circumstances the world’s been deprived of in recent years. Stats also show 83% of the US workforce suffer from work-related stress, resulting in mass insomnia. “Highly stressful jobs with poor boundaries where you're carrying your work home into the evening, are not good for sleep,” warns Michael Grandner Professor of Sleep Behaviour at the University of Arizona. “The biggest problem with sleep and work is that we're never done. We do not give ourselves permission to be done, because there's always more.”
Stress and the city
The American Psychological Association’s annual Stress In America Survey reports that those who reside in urban areas are more likely than their suburban counterparts to experience significant stress in all aspects of life; money (70% urban vs. 63% suburban), the economy (68% vs. 61%), and housing costs (58% vs. 45%). They're also more likely to experience accelerated ageing due to heavy metals compromising the skin’s essential barrier and the added stressors of modern city life. These findings aren’t overly surprising though considering the C-Suite demands, dense populations, property prices, traffic congestion and the 24/7 hustle culture of fast-paced cities.
What can stress do to your body?
More important is understanding how stress affects the body. What may seem like chaos theory of random ailments is actually far more traceable than you might think. There is indeed a science to stress. Stress might originate as external information but it’s the nervous system where the brain, eyes and spinal cord connect to all the other organs, that transfers it from our thoughts to the rest of the body.
7 ways stress can make you sick
Far from a system malfunction, stress is a crucial response to external stressors (we just swapped sabre toothed tigers for tax returns somewhere along the way) but when stress becomes prolonged and enters chronic territory, the body cannot resume normal programming.
The most common physical symptom of stress is inflammation which compromises organ function and puts the immune system under strain. “Chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system goes into overdrive, usually as a result of a prolonged and sustained period of stress or anxiety,” explains Professor Paul Clayton, world leading authority on immunity and inflammation, and the fast-developing science of pharmaco-nutrition.
2. Musculoskeletal system
Stress can directly cause back pain because stressful thoughts cause a physical reflex; muscles become taut and the body tenses up. Stress can cause headaches too when that muscular pain in the shoulders and back travels up the neck, triggering tension headaches.
3. Respiratory system
Stress changes the way we breathe. Shallow intakes and failing to fully empty the lungs causes the airway between the nose and the lungs to constrict. There’s also evidence that psychological stressors can exacerbate breathing problems for those with pre-existing respiratory diseases. Breathing deeply and correctly is a powerful antidote for feelings of stress and anxiety.
4. Cardiovascular system
Medical studies into stress prove outright that those suffering from financial stress are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Constant stress causes blood vessels to constrict, a persistent increase in heart rate, elevated levels of stress hormones and high blood pressure, all taking their toll on the body.
5. Hormone overload
During times of stress, the brain’s hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to speed-make cortisol; a response termed as the HPA axis. Cortisol is excellent at regulating the immune system and reducing inflammation during stressful situations but chronic stress can result in impaired communication between the immune system and the HPA axis, increasing the likelihood of both mental and physical disorders.
6. Weight gain
The HPA axis communication breakdown causes hormone imbalances linked to the development of chronic fatigue and metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity. “Stress and cortisol are linked together and can shift your insulin levels. You store more fat,” says Dr. Maryam Zamani, a leading oculoplastic surgeon and facial aesthetics doctor in London.
7. Brain-gut connection
If you’re wondering can stress cause bloating? It absolutely can by interfering with brain-gut communication. The gut is populated by millions of bacteria which can influence both its health, and the brain’s health too. Thus somewhat symbiotically, the gut’s nerves and bacteria strongly influence our stress levels and vice versa.
How to beat stress (it’s already in you)
Thinking about stress can in itself be stressful, but the good news is that our ancient biology is well equipped and has specific design functions to handle stress . “Stress at its core is a generalised system. It’s a system designed to be generic and mobilise other systems of the body,” explains Andrew Huberman on his hugely insightful Huberman Lab podcast. He says this is fundamental to understand because conversely, we also have a very effective, in-built counter stress system to go alongside it. “You have hardwired biological mechanisms meaning cells, chemicals, pathways and tissues that allow you to put a brake on stress. You have a system for stress and a system for de-stress that are baked into you and genetically coded.”
Supplements for added resilience
As well as being genetically designed to beat stress, you can support the body’s counter stress response with evidence-based supplementation. LYMA is scientifically proven to ease your body's response to external stressors by systematically nourishing, strengthening and forging resilience to stress in every biological process. Taking LYMA every day has been clinically proven to safeguard your systems and responses. Moreover, LYMA contains highly specialised, and absorbable turmeric extract, HydroCurc® 600mg to suppress inflammation throughout the body.
Research shows we understand the human stress response better than ever before and encouragingly, more than half of Americans (57%), now say they are prioritising health and wellbeing above financial security. By getting increasingly smart to stress, we can now treat its root causes and protect our health, longer into life.
There are exponential health benefits to figuring out how to manage your stress. Be it through breathing exercises for stress relief, adopting effective grounding techniques, or overcoming sleep anxiety to get the rest and reset your body and brain need. Alongside all of them is LYMA, ever smoothing the way.
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