There isn’t a day that goes by when you don’t hear about someone’s ailments. It seems that we are no longer prone to illness primarily during the winter months, but we’re vulnerable to sickness all year round.
I never knew of my grandparents, or even parents, to ever really be ill. It makes you wonder if we’re becoming more susceptible to illness with each generation, or if our modern lifestyle (and the consequences of it), plays a bigger role in our health than we’d like to admit? Personally, I’m more inclined to believe that our wonderful online world with 24/7 access to pretty much anything and everything might also be our downfall. Modern day developments have certainly brought us new opportunities and ways of doing things, but they have also brought with them unsustainable demands, higher expectations, less patience and almost no ‘down time’ to switch off.
Employment is often one of the most stressful areas of a person's life. Figures released by the Health and Safety Executive UK suggest that there were 488,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2015/16 – that’s a rate of 1,510 per 100,000. This statistic only includes the recorded cases. I don’t doubt for a second that there are many more people who are ‘managing’ to live with high levels of stress due to work.
So, what does all this mean for our health? One thing you can be certain of is that excessive stress will always manifest itself and negatively impact on your physical and/or mental wellbeing. I don’t think I know of a single person who has not experienced the physical consequences of too much stress.
I noticed a change in my wellbeing when I was given a Blackberry by a company I used to work for in London. How fantastic, I thought, as I was told that I could now answer emails until 10pm at night from my US client. As for having weekends off, don’t be silly. And don’t think I wasn’t given a disapproving look for not checking my emails on my day off. The hindrance of being office-based during the standard working week (which was what I was paid to do) was now removed thanks to this palm-sized gadget, meaning I could work seven days a week. Perfect, just what I had always wanted. When my work-related stress levels were at their worst, I lost half a stone in a week and my entire back and chest were covered in eczema. As you can imagine, I felt pretty miserable.
Knowing the signs
In terms of knowing what to do to protect our health, the saying, “prevention is better than cure” springs to mind. Sadly, too many people let their stress levels get out of control to the point where they are forced to seek help. Early intervention helps to minimise the consequences of stress and reduce recovery time.
We all know the common signs of stress – anxiety, depression, migraines, high blood pressure, digestive issues such as diarrhoea or constipation, chest pains, insomnia, etc. But what about the more discreet symptoms? Here are five signs that might be telling you to take a break and reassess the state of your health.
1. Ongoing colds/illnesses
It might only be an annoying runny nose or tickly cough, but if a minor ailment continues for a prolonged period of time or reoccurs frequently, it could be a sign that your immune system is not as efficient as it could be. Our white blood cells (lymphocytes), which destroy harmful organisms that threaten the body, can become suppressed during periods of chronic (long term) stress, making us more prone to infection and disease.
2. Frequent urination
Have you ever emptied your bladder and then felt like you needed to do so again within minutes? There may be many reasons for this but stress can be one of them. When you’re stressed and the body senses a threat, you go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. In preparation for either response, the body tries to rid itself of waste to make you lighter and more prepared for either fighting or running away. Sometimes, the fight or flight response doesn’t switch off, and the body remains in a state of alert, causing the continuation of frequent urination.
Research published by the Ohio State University in 2016 found that chronic stress can result in forgetfulness. Research carried out on mice showed that when stressed, the immune system sent macrophages (immune cells) to the brain, causing inflammation. Fortunately, the mice recovered within 28 days once the stressor had been removed.
4. Slurred speech
When very stressed or anxious, your brain can struggle with coordination and cognitive processes. Slurred speech can be caused by poor memory recall – difficulty finding the words you want to say. Your brain has to work harder under stress, resulting in poor focus and execution.
Muscle spasms (twitching) can be caused by stress and is most noticeable around the eyes. It can last for short or long periods of time. If the cause of stress is identified and managed, the twitching should eventually stop on its own accord. I can personally relate to this symptom as sometimes my eyes will twitch uncontrollably when I’m feeling run down. It’s not helpful when you’re trying to concentrate!
Managing the symptoms of stress is achievable once the cause has been identified. It’s important to remember that any symptom of stress, as horrible as it is, is your body’s way of saying, “I can’t function properly in this current state.” Your body is remarkable in many ways and it’s important to tune in and listen to it.
Keep an eye out for my next post, which will feature stress-busting management techniques that you can incorporate into your daily life.
Inner Wellness Massage Blog
Welcome to my wellness blog! This is where I will share all things health and wellbeing. I hope to encourage others to prioritise their own health while I continuously work to better my own.
Disclaimer: the views and experiences shared are my own and information based on health-related topics has been researched. While this blog promotes and encourages a healthy lifestyle, I am not a doctor and the content is not intended as medical advice. Always seek help from a medical professional if you are concerned about your health.