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The Science Behind Stress: Everything You Need to Know

Approximately 72 per cent of Australians report feeling that stress has a negative impact on their physical health. Sixty-four per cent also say that it affects their mental health.

Do you fall into either (or both) of these groups? Are you struggling due to heightened levels of stress in your day-to-day life?

We can't escape stress altogether, but we can gain a better understanding of what happens internally when we're stressed and find healthy ways to cope. Read on to learn more about the science of stress and what you can do to improve your approach to stress management.

What Is Stress?

Pretty much everyone knows what stress feels like. They might struggle to come up with an accurate stress definition, though. 

In simple terms, stress is your body and brain's reaction to a particular demand or challenge. These demands and challenges can be real and tangible, such as a looming work deadline, or they can be perceived, such as when you believe that someone doesn't like you and feel anxious when you have to be around them.

During stressful situations, a series of chemical reactions occur throughout the body so that you're able to rise to the occasion and overcome the challenge you're facing.

What Happens Internally When We're Stressed Out?

There's a lot that happens in the body when a person feels stressed. Any type of stressful situation will trigger the release of several hormones, and it all starts in the brain.

There is a small portion of the brain known as the hypothalamus that kicks things off. It reacts to stressors by sending out a series of signals, which in turn trigger the production of two stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline affects your vital signs. It increases your heart rate and blood pressure and can also increase your energy levels so that you feel physically prepared to combat the source of your stress.

Cortisol also increases energy, but it slows down certain bodily functions, too, such as digestion. When you're facing a stressor, your body needs to divert all of its resources to help you face that stressor. It doesn't have time to worry about digesting your lunch.

In a healthy individual, once the stressor passes, your body comes back into balance. Your hormone levels and vital signs return to normal, and your body's ability to get back to business and take care of processes that were put on hold. 

Short-term stress is not a problem and makes us more resilient. The problem, though, is when we're chronically stressed out and have a hard time returning back to normal. 

Chronic Stress Symptoms

It's not always easy to tell when you're dealing with chronic stress. Many people experience so much stress throughout a typical day that it actually feels normal to them. If you're unsure if chronic stress is an issue for you, here are some symptoms you ought to watch for:

  • Severe acne
  • Frequent headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Getting sick more often
  • Reduced energy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Poor digestion
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Increased sweating

If you experience any (or all) of these symptoms, it's possible that chronic stress could be the culprit.

Risks of Chronic Stress

When you stay in a state of chronic stress for too long, you can set yourself up for a variety of long-term health conditions. The following are some common illnesses associated with chronic stress:

  • Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Poor digestion and nutrient absorption
  • Increased risk of obesity
  • Diminished immune system function and an increased risk of autoimmune diseases
  • Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Hormone imbalance and infertility

It's clear that stress has the ability to cause a lot of issues in the body, especially if it goes unchecked for too long. That's why it's important to address chronic stress as soon as you start experiencing symptoms. 

Tips for Managing Stress

Luckily, there are ways to manage stress in your daily life. Here are some effective practices to put in place starting today:

Meditate

Meditation is an effective tool that helps you to tune in to your body and get into a calmer state faster. Focusing on the breath and staying present can lower your blood pressure and heart rate and put you at ease.

Exercise

Regular exercise is another powerful stress reliever. Being more active makes it easier for you to metabolise excess hormones, work through negative thoughts, and sleep better at night. All of these things may minimize the symptoms of chronic stress.

Get Enough Sleep

If you're dealing with chronic stress, make sure you're prioritising sleep. Sleep quality and quantity are essential if you want to feel your best. When you're asleep, your body has a chance to balance itself out and repair any damage that might have occurred during the day.

Reduce Stimulant Intake

For those who struggle to fall asleep at night, consuming too many stimulants (such as caffeine) often makes the problem worse. Try to reduce your caffeine intake, especially later in the day, for better rest when nighttime rolls around.

Use Supplements for Relaxation and Mood Support

There are certain supplements that have been shown to promote relaxation and boost mood. One of the most effective options is the mineral magnesium, which promotes muscle relaxation and can help you get to sleep at night. Magnesium also enhances the effects of GABA, a neurotransmitter that brings about relaxed feelings during stressful periods.

Minimize the Impact of Stress Today

Now that you know more about what happens to the body when you're feeling high levels of stress, chances are you're interested in taking steps to reduce it in your life.

Keep the tips listed above in mind to start combating stress today. Remember that some smart supplementation can go a long way, too.

Our Mg Optima Relax supplement is a great addition to your routine that can encourage relaxation and minimize the negative effects of chronic stress. Order it today and give it a try!

This article does not a represent a product description, nor a summary of therapeutic indications of any of Medlab’s products. If you are interested in a Medlab product, please read the product label or the product information published in the product section shop.medlab.co prior to purchase. If you are unsure whether a product is right for you, please talk to a healthcare professional.

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