Stress is unavoidable in our lives. It manifests itself in diverse ways for different people, but it always has negative consequences. This month, we are taking a look at the negative effects of stress on our health, as well as the ways to combat it given that it is Stress Awareness Month in April. It is the perfect time to learn more about this important issue!
There are a multitude of negative effects that stress can have on our health. Stress can lead to physical and mental problems as well as changes in our behaviour [i].
What is Stress Awareness Month 2022 and When is it?
Stress Awareness Month 2022 takes place in April (and has done since 1992) to draw more attention to the 'modern stress epidemic' according to the official website. Each year revolves around a new theme with 2022 being about 'Community'
"We have chosen this theme because lack of support can cause loneliness and isolation, which in turn lowers people’s wellbeing, impacts mental health and can lead to mental illness" highlights the Stress Management Society.
The Negative Effects of Stress on Our Health!
Stress can have many implications on our physical and mental health, including headaches, chest pains, sexual problems, concentration issues, feelings of being overwhelmed/worrying, issues relating to sleeping too little or too much, drinking and much more [i].
We all react in different ways and stress is brought on through a mixture of life experiences and genetics [ii]. A study from 2017 looked into the various causes stress can have on the body and it found that stress could play a role in IBS, negatively affect heart rate/blood pressure and suppress the immune system [iii].
This particular study also highlights that stress can alter our cognitive function with high levels causing problems to memory and judgement due to how it affects the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex [iii]. Stress can also cause structural changes in the brain, causing long-term effects to the nervous system [iii].
Another way in which stress can impact our physical health is through changes in our libido. Stress is a function that kicks into motion the body's natural fight or flight system, which prepares the body for danger. It prioritises certain bodily functions whilst things such as a person's sex drive take less of a priority which can result in a lack of libido [iv].
Our sex drive can also be affected by how stress triggers the release of cortisol and epinephrine, which could result in a decreased sex drive [v].
The Mental Health Foundation also highlights how stress can cause symptoms related to depression, anxiety and much more [vi].
So, we understand that stress could have a negative effect on our health, but what can we do to counteract this?
How to Combat Stress?
If you are experiencing elevated levels of stress that is altering your physical and mental health, then seek professional advice and help from your local GP. But there are some natural things we can incorporate into our daily lives that could make an impact.
How Exercise Can Aid Stress
Exercise can naturally produce endorphins in the body which can boost your mood according to information from the Mental Health Foundation [vi]. It’s also well documented from a variety of sources that exercise could possibly combat some of the negative effects that come with stress such as disruptions to sleep, anxiety and depression [vii].
When we are moving through exercise, it can reduce the number of stress hormones in the body such as cortisol and adrenaline too [viii].
How Ashwagandha Extract Can Aid Stress!
There are also natural ingredients we can incorporate into our diets that can help combat stress such as Ashwagandha. Used in ancient medicine for 100s of years, a 2017 study into Ashwagandha stated that this ingredient could reduce psychological and physiological markers of stress whilst also improving mental well-being [ix].
It may seem like a difficult ingredient to get a hold of, however, at Nourished we have made it extremely easy for you to get a daily dose of Ashwagandha through our gummy-vitamin stacks. Simply visit our lab and add this natural ingredient, along with 6 others into a single, delicious gummy that's vegan and sugar-free!
If you would like to read more about this powerful natural ingredient then you can read our full blog post here!
How Breathing Exercises Can Aid Stress!
Stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help to reduce stress levels too. NHS England detail that there are particular breathing exercises that you can do, with them being more effective when done on a regular basis. These do not require a lot of time and can be incorporated into your current routine [x].
The idea of deep breathing is something that seems unnatural for us to do throughout the day, so taking the time to focus on your breath can seem strange. By doing deep breathing exercises, you are increasing the amount of oxygen around the body, and by doing so you can slow your heart rate and stabilise blood pressure [xi].
Want to Learn More?
If you would like to read more of the studies, claims and references cited in this article then please visit the links below: