How Stress Affects Health
Stress is the mind’s natural response to coping with good or bad situations. It can be triggered by anything from a large homework load to just walking down a noisy hallway. Stress activates the “fight-or-flight” response in the brain that helps a person determine whether they want to face the problem in front of them and try to cope with it, or simply run from it. Due to the fact that stress impacts the entire body, such as increasing the rate of breathing and heart beat, dilating the pupils in the eyes, or causing tension in the muscles, it can also briefly shut down the metabolism, preventing the body from digesting food properly. This also means it can make the body crave fats or carbohydrates to supply it with energy to face the situation it is presented with. If someone is put under continuous stress, this could lead to weight gain. Studies have shown that people put under excessive stress have a higher chance of becoming ill, making mistakes, being involved in accidents, or having low performance on tests. Some early research says that autoimmune diseases can also be triggered by stress.
For adolescents, there are many pressures that can lead them to be prone to stress. Trying to figure out where to go to college, dealing with mass amounts of school work, learning how to drive, or meeting social expectations can all lead to increased anxiety and stress. There are many ways that teens can cope with the stress in their lives. However, Dr. Laura Cheshire, a Family Nurse Practitioner at SAIF Clinic, says that teens need to be encouraged to seek out these methods and balance the amount of stress in their lives from their day-to-day demands.
“The balance is hard to find, but if you let all the demands sweep you away and you’re not grounded… you’re not going to thrive, and grow, and learn, as well as you would if you had better balance. So it’s important,” Cheshire said.
Most book stores have a self-improvement aisle that contains books on ways to cope with stress. Any kind of exercise, like going for a walk outside for instance, has a significant impact on the decrease of stress. Taking slow, deep breaths centered in the stomach will also release stress quickly. “Mindless Meditation” is something that can be done internally to release stress. It forces the brain to focus on something like breathing instead of the stressful thoughts that may be causing it anxiety, which is an internal stress. Avoiding negative thoughts will lower anxiety levels notably.
“When I’m stressed I listen to music and watch funny videos,” Minhkim Bui, ‘18 said.
Oddly enough, walking backwards can also decrease stress, because it forces the mind to focus on not falling over instead of the other pressures that may be triggering stress.