Effects of Stress On the Body
By Juliet Kaska
Stress can be good
Stress makes us stronger
Stress often gets a bad wrap. But did you know stress on our bones through resistance (gravity, weights, etc) actually causes our bones to get stronger? If our bones did not have this stress, they would become weak and brittle. And consider those recent sniffles: illness acts as a stressor on our body and in some situations makes us stronger by helping to build up our immune system.
The same applies for the emotional stress in our lives. Stress builds resilience. If we only have ease and relaxation in our lives, we would not know how to handle hard moments that life throws our way.
After hearing about all those upsides to stress you’re probably thinking, ‘Bring it on! This stress thing seems kind of awesome’. Well, not too fast there.
While positive in many ways, too much stress can also have many negative side effects. Stress can become debilitating.
Let’s go back to our example of bones needing stress to get strong. Imagine a bone in your body. How about the thigh bone? Known as the femur bone. It’s the strongest and longest bone in the body. Now imagine a 200 lb boulder landing on that bone. Smash. Crack. AHHHHHH!!!! The bone breaks from the weight of the boulder. That is far too much stress for the femur bone to withstand. Rather than growing stronger, it will crack under the pressure of this stress.
Similarly, emotional stress works the same way on our nervous system. Learning that we can handle emotional and mental stress makes us stronger and more resilient for the next hardship life offers up. But sometimes that stress can become a huge boulder, and we can become debilitated, succumbing to illness, anxiety and/or depression.
Unlike the 200lb boulder which you would clearly feel and recognize on impact, emotional and mental stress is more often than not, slower to build, and more difficult to recognize. In fact, the signs can be so subtle that many people miss them and instead find themselves in a debilitating state wondering ‘how did I get here?’
Learn to Listen
Our bodies are amazing communicators. Everything we need to thrive, heal and live is communicated to us by our body. We sometimes just forget to read the signs. When you are hungry, what does your body do? It releases ghrelin, a hormone that then tells your stomach to release acid to break down food. If there is no food, we experience hunger pains. The body’s way of communicating to you that it is time to be refueled (eat).
There are millions of messages being sent throughout our body at every moment. Many of these messages we can actually “hear” or read— if we are being present. It is these messages that if we can listen to, we can prevent ourselves from getting to a stage of debilitation from stress.
Here are some warning signs that your body is saying to you, ‘Hello, and listen up, I need some help.’ I promise you, they are worth it.
Early Signs You are Under Emotional Stress
- Restless sleep/not being able to sleep
- Feeling tired even after getting a full night’s sleep
- Never getting tired, feeling like you don’t need to sleep much
- Unexplained dizziness, and/or recently developed vertigo
- Skin hives, rashes and/or eczema
- General and unexplained body aches and pains
- Tight/locked jaw, clenching or grinding teeth while you sleep, and/or in the daytime
- Increased blood pressure above 120/80
- Recurring feelings of being overwhelmed
- General or localized malaise or melancholy for longer then a few days, or consistently reoccurring
- Regular or recurrent intestinal issues, including stomach upset, diarrhea, constipation and acid reflux
Signs That You Are, or Are On Your Way to Becoming Debilitated by Your Stress
- Developing TMJ with no prior history
- High blood pressure
- Trouble remembering things, losing things more often than usual
- Panic/anxiety attack(s)
- Exhaustion resulting in having difficulty doing normal daily activities
- Staying in bed or having a hard time getting/staying out of bed
- Getting ill more often than normal, and/or taking a longer then average time getting better from illness
- Lacking the desire to see friends, family or to be social
- Excessive weight gain or loss
- Decreased sex drive
- Consuming alcohol and/or drugs (prescription or illegal) to cope; to relieve stressful emotions
- Chronic feelings of anxiety
- Feelings of emotional instability
Stress Has Caused You to Become Debilitated
- Heart attack
- Regular anxiety/panic attacks
- Experiencing nervous/mental breakdown
- Unexplained blackout and/or fainting
- Inability to function through normal tasks
- Fear of leaving the house or familiar places
- Development of phobias. Such as, agoraphobia, germaphobia, atychiphobia, claustrophobia, etc.
- Dependence on alcohol and drugs (prescription or illegal)
Combat Stress and Maybe Prevent It
- Get present. The book The Power of Now is great access point for developing this skill.
- Meditate daily. Did you 5-10 minutes twice a day can lower your blood pressure.
- Practice breathing exercises.
- Talk to a professional therapist, physiatrist or even a trained life coach. This is great way to get perspective and to release emotional tension that is building.
- Exercise. This does not need to be running a marathon, but even taking a 20-45 minute walk a day is a great way to relieve stress.
- Pet your pet. Petting, playing and even caring for a pet is an amazing tool to relive stress. Some studies have shown that pets help relieve stress, improve heart health, and improve social skills.
- Social Media Detox. Take time away from scrolling. Try a block of time a day, then move toward limiting yourself to only 30mins a day, with a day or more completely off a week.
- Limit TV consumption to 30-60minutes a day. And keep the TV off as background noise.
- Spend time with healthy minded people who have a positive influence on you. Similarly, breakup or move on from those people in your life that are toxic.
- Stop to smell the roses, literally or figuratively. Take time to smell, see, feel, and listen to our environments. This is an excellent way to fell present, clear headed and appreciative.
- Write a daily gratitude journal. Jot down 3-5 things every day that you are grateful for. Examples: The sun. The salad I am eating. The Uber driver. My friend.
Learn to Monitor and Understand Your Stress
Stress has a place in the health and success of our lives, but is not something to ignore or to take lightly. Taking the time to listen and be present with our body and how it communicates its needs are vital in keeping yourself healthy and thriving. Taking a few minutes each day to be silent, and in silence, will help to improve your ability to listen to your body’s needs.
About the Author:
Juliet Kaska is one of the country’s leading celebrity trainers and health + wellness experts. In 2005, she opened Emerson Hall Fitness (EHF) in West Hollywood, CA, which quickly became the most sought-after boutique gym in the Los Angeles area. She then launched her brand JK Zen Fitness, with partnership locations throughout LA, and in 2010 opened the JK Fitness Pilates Studio. Juliet recently partnered with Vionic to create the Move for You program, a three-part series of 7 minute videos that get you moving with power and comfort. In addition to her celebrity clientele, Juliet is known for creating Hollywood’s favorite workout programs: The Bombshell Bride, Picture Perfect, The Red Carpet Workout, The Executive’s Workout and her most popular, Pilates Burn, a high-intensity workout combining Pilates reformer equipment, traditional strength training techniques and the flow of yoga. Juliet has consulted for and appeared on numerous programs such as Good Morning America, Dr. Phil and Entertainment Tonight. Numerous publications including Vogue, Shape, Los Angeles Magazine, People, Oxygen, Fitness Magazine, Glamour and Health Magazine have also featured her as a fitness expert. Juliet is trained and certified in multiple disciplines, making her workout programs both diverse and innovative. She is certified as a Second Generation Master Pilates Teacher and has received dual certification as a personal trainer from the American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. In addition, yoga guru Dharma Mittra trained her as a yoga teacher. Juliet brings a vibrant voice and unique perspective to the Vionic Innovation Lab.