Everyone has problems and challenges – that is a normal part of everyday life. But when your problems weigh on your mind constantly, your body begins to become depleted and signs of chronic stress show up. Studies show that our mind and body have difficulty distinguishing between the kind of stress caused by real danger (our house is on fire) and perceived danger (our boss has too many demands).
Our bodies are pretty incredible. When we’re feeling stressed, our bodies release hormones to help us deal with the problem more effectively. Chemicals are released to increase our heart rate and blood pressure, increase blood flow to our muscles, and decrease blood flow to our organs (which affects digestion, among other things). More blood flow goes to the brain to help us be more alert and responsive. This strategy is incredibly effective to help us figure out what to do about the stressor and get rid of it so we can return to normal functioning.
But our bodies cannot sustain that increased level of functioning for a long period of time. After a while, the body becomes run down and depleted, which can result in anything from headaches to insomnia, and even more severe disorders like heart attacks and stroke.
What kinds of signs or symptoms are associated with chronic stress?
- Physical complaints where medical illness has been ruled out or has been discussed as only part of the problem (such as gastrointestinal issues, headaches/migraines, backaches, cramps, tics)
- Withdrawal and isolation
- Increased drug or alcohol use
- Changes in eating habits and weight
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Chronic fatigue
- Crying easily
- Depressed mood or sadness
- Non-specific anxiety or worry
What kinds of conditions are associated with chronic stress?
The list is truly endless, but some of the most common conditions associated with prolonged, unhealthy stress include:
- Changes in appetite
- Chronic Pain
- Frequent colds
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Heart attacks
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Skin disorders
- Respiratory conditions
- Sexual dysfunction
If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of chronic stress and some of these signs or symptoms resonate with you, its time to take intentional steps to reduce stress and develop skills to support your mind and body. All of the services available at CTSA are offered to reduce stress and heal the mind and body. Participating in therapy or coaching can also help identify the source of your stress, increase resilience, set healthy boundaries that serve you, and explore options to eliminate the stressors altogether where possible.
Schedule your evaluation and begin treatment with one of our specialists today.