If there’s one thing that can describe lifestyles in the 21st century, it’s that all of us live consistently stressed out lives. Surveys conducted to investigate the prevalence of stress point out that 25% of all Canadian workers are suffering from chronic stress.  

Although it’s purely psychological, chronic stress can be absolutely destructive for your whole body. It can weaken your immune system; induce pain in the muscles and joints and increases the chances of developing cardiovascular or respiratory disease. If you live with stress for long enough, without breaks, you can also develop conditions like anxiety and depression.

How the Body Responds to Stress

Chronic Stress

The feeling of stress forces the body into what is called a “Fight or Flight Response”.  In this state, your mind thinks that there is actual threat to your body and releases hormones that could prepare you to save yourself from the threat.

In this process, it activates all the parts of the body which could save you from these threats. Adrenaline and similar hormones increase your heart rate, breathing rate and digestion rates to deal with the perceived threat. This is why you sweat, breathe harder and feel your heart pounding in stressful situations.

Although these responses were well suited to help our ancestors deal with wild animals or other threats to their lives; we really don’t have many of these problems to worry about.  Our problems seem to stick with us and some of us never really feel like we’re not under threat and so, living in a state where our bodies constantly feel under threat, can absolutely destroy them.

The Effects of Chronic Stress

Man with back pain

The affects of chronic stress are felt throughout the body. These can include:

Musculoskeletal Effects

Consistent stress keeps your muscles at the ready to make sure that you can leave the situation as quickly as possible. This means that your muscles are always flexed and prepared to flee the possible threatening scenario.  The resulting stress can cause body aches, muscle strain, injuries and increases the risk of developing long-term skeletal problems like back pains.

Respiration and Cardiovascular Effects

Since stress increases your breathing rates, it can trigger pre-existing conditions like asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. For many people this can also bring on panic attacks, which can completely drain the body.

For many people it can also cause blood pressure problems because of the continuous stress.

Reproductive Effects

Stress is actually one of the leading causes of problems like premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and lower libido in both men and women. For women, they might find that their menstrual cycles have become irregular and sometimes the increased stress can exacerbate existing reproductive conditions.

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