Stress is at an all-time high as we continue to experience the effects of COVID-19.
As much as we can attribute our stress to the pandemic, it has long reigned over our lives, even before COVID shook the world.
To make matters worse, we are all suffering a collective trauma that only enhances that stress we’re feeling. In the short and long term, this kind of stress is doing nothing great for our bodies, including our hormones.
But before you start carrying the stress of today’s world or the challenges you’re facing in your world, just know, there is always hope on the horizon, and stress doesn’t have to rule over your life.
In this article, we tell you how stress can affect your daily life, your hormones, and ways you can overcome your stress. But before we tell you the effect stress has on your hormones, it’s essential for us to understand stress and how it manifests in our bodies.
Stress Statistics in 2021
To get started, here are a few quick facts about stress to help you understand the severity of it. We hope this information helps shed light on stress and spark some motivation to resolve it.
The data we’ve discovered about stress comes from MedAlertHelp.com.
- Individuals 72 years and older report less stress
- 80% of millennials report feeling high levels of stress around money
- On a scale of 1-10, teenagers ranked their stress at a 5.8
- 45% of college students seek professional counseling because of stress
- Only 14% of US citizens exercise to cope with stress.
- Nearly 77% of employees experience stress in the workplace
- 35% of single parents report having high levels of stress
You get the idea. Stress is a true problem, not just for Americans but for people around the globe.
Now that we understand some of the main statistics around stress, let’s dive deeper into understanding what it is, the typical signs, how it works in the body, and how to cope with stress in healthy ways.
What is Stress?
In general, stress usually means strain. We typically experience stress when we become overwhelmed with something in a mental, emotional, or physical capacity.
Stress is a perfectly normal reaction within the body, and we are designed to experience stress and react to it in certain situations or scenarios. It can be triggered.
However, in current times, we are experiencing abnormal amounts of stress that were just not designed for our bodies, which creates many problems regarding health.
It can manifest in many forms, including stress due to an overwhelming workplace, stress from doing too much in our daily routines, when we are faced with a threat or other major challenge, or when we experience physical strains like childbirth or strength training.
The 3 Types of Stress
According to Healthline, there are different kinds of stress we experience depending on the situation. And sometimes, not all stress is bad.
One thing important to note is stress should be temporary. Our bodies are not designed to experience stress every single day. In fact,
“severe, frequent, or prolonged stress can be mentally and physically harmful.”
Healthline says there are three different types of stress:
- Acute Stress – short-term stress and the body’s immediate reaction to a situation. It can often manifest from doing something we enjoy.
- Severe Acute Stress – happens when you face a life-threatening situation, which could lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental health issues.
- Episodic Acute Stress – is when you experience high frequencies of acute stress. This typically happens if we have a lot of anxiety or feel worried often.
- Chronic Stress – high levels of stress that happen over a prolonged period and usually causes severe health problems.
Understanding all types of stress can help us know which one we experience and how to cope with it.
Is it a healthy type of stress, or is it something detrimental to our health?
What Causes Stress?
The list of causes for stress is ever going and relative to an individual’s unique life and situation.
Some might experience daily healthy stresses and thrills, while others are under frequent torrential stress.
Some of the most common causes of stress come from living through illness, familial issues, being a victim of crime, working in a challenging or dangerous profession, having an unbalanced home and work life, and a variety of others.
If you’re not sure where your stress is coming from, we suggest seeking a health professional or counselor to help you pinpoint the cause of your stress.
8 Signs of Stress
Chances are you have experienced some type of stress in your lifetime. But in the interest of education, here are some of the common signs of stress.
- Long-term or chronic pain
- Problems with sleeping or insomnia
- Low sex drive
- Digestive issues
- Problems with eating (i.e., eating too much or not enough)
- Issues with concentrating or making decisions
- Frequent fatigue
If you are currently experiencing one or more of these things, you may be under stress. If this is the case, it may be time to take a mental health day or seek help from a health professional to correct your issues with stress.
How Stress Works in the Body
To understand how stress can affect our hormones, we must first understand how stress works in the body.
As mentioned before, stress is often triggered by a thrilling or dangerous situation. From there, our bodies initiate a biological response that includes releasing stress hormones.
The stress hormones released included commonly known hormones known as cortisol and adrenaline, which help our body prepare for an emergency reaction.
When we feel stress, we can experience a quickened heart rate and breath, tightening of the muscles, a rise in blood pressure, and heightened senses.
Watch the video from Ted Ed to learn more about how stress works in the body.
How Regular Stress Affects Your Hormones
Cortisol and adrenaline are not the only chemicals released into your body when you experience stress.
When we’re stressed, there are various other chemicals present, many of which can cause hormonal changes. When these chemicals are triggered, the body is forced to adapt to the new circumstance. However, in this process, these hormonal changes can lead to health problems and leave you feeling unlike yourself.
Below are the other chemicals released during stress and how they can cause hormonal imbalances.
Chemicals Released During Stress
In instances of stress, the following chemicals are secreted into the body:
- Cortisol – when activated, can tell the body to replenish with comfort foods, which can lead to weight gain.
- Catecholamines – when released, can cause increased cardiac performance and skeletal muscle blood flow.
- Vasopressin – can be caused by acute stress and, when triggered, may cause your kidneys to retain water which can dilute the blood and result in low-sodium concentration. Learn more about the complexities of vasopressin here.
- Gonadotropins – when suppressed, can impair reproductive function and disrupt menstrual cycles.
- Insulin – may decrease during stress and, when coupled with antagonistic hormones, could trigger stress-induced hyperglycemia.
To put this all more simply, the combination of these chemicals released in your body in moments of stress can cause hormonal balances.
Signs You’re Experiencing Hormonal Imbalances
You’ll notice below that many of these are related to the symptoms of stress, which we referred to earlier.
Some signs that you are experiencing these hormonal imbalances include:
- Night sweats
- Leg cramps
- Vaginal dryness
- Sleep disturbances
- Low sex drive
High Cortisol Levels in Women
In women, when cortisol and estrogen meet, estrogen levels decrease, and that hormonal imbalance will occur.
In this process, women experience more symptoms of imbalances. Some were named above but also include:
- Heavy or more frequent periods
- Skipped periods
- Thinning hair or hair loss
- Painful sex
- Weight gain
- Skin tags
- Darkening skin
While these hormonal imbalances can be a normal occurrence (i.e., pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause), long-term imbalances can negatively affect women’s bodies and cause severe medical conditions.
5 Healthy Ways to Manage Stress
Now that we have had some time to understand stress and how it works in our body, how can we combat that stress in our daily routines?
Altru Integrated Health has some proven methods to assist you in managing stress and reacting to it in healthy ways.
Some of our favorites include:
- Daily physical activity – increases your overall health and releases endorphins (happy chemicals). In addition, 33% of stressed adults report feeling less stressed after exercise.
- Meditation or mindfulness – meditative practices improve anxiety levels 60% of the time when practiced regularly.
- Improving your diet – a healthy and well-balanced diet can help manage stress, says 27% of adults.
- Journaling – gives you an outlet for the stress you’ve been feeling and helps you release frustrations from things happening in your life that may be causing your stress.
- Seeking out a counselor – having a healthy outlet or someone to talk to about your stress is an appropriate action to take. They can pinpoint the roots of stress and help work through them practically.
There are countless other ways to manage your stress in healthy ways. It is just a matter of you deciding what that is.
Reducing stress can mean spending more time with your friends and less time working, recognizing when it’s time to take a mental health day, reading a book, or getting extra rest on the weekends after a long work week.
Seek Altru Integrated Health’s Professionals in Managing Stress
The topic of stress and how it affects our hormones and bodies is a broad topic with much to explore.
Physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual components all contribute to your well-being. That’s why our team of professionals looks out for every client by offering a unique whole-person, multi-point, multi-discipline approach to every diagnosis.
Our collection of unique services supports you in all these areas, and the result is an active reduction in stress.
We support your effort to reduce stress with meditation, increased physical activity, implementing a better diet, nutrition education and advice, and promoting detoxification, rest and relaxation through massage and acupuncture.
We can help you reduce your stress levels, create healthy hormone balances, and manage them in sustainable ways so life feels much fuller.