WE all have breaking points — even those among us who others sit and look at in awe because we complete superhuman tasks daily without flinching or complaining. And while it is true that some of us may be able to function effectively in environments that are constantly stress-inducing, Dr Samantha Nicholson, medical internist at Imani Medical Centre, Papine Plaza, says this can actually wear the body and mind down, but some of us become so used to it that we don't recognise the messages that our bodies are sending us.
“Stress and a stressful life can be quite debilitating and sometimes because we are so caught up, it becomes the norm. Unfortunately, situations of continuous stress wears and tears the body physically as well as emotionally which may result in a number of health complications, some of which can be prevented if we identify and act on the signs the body gives us,” Dr Nicholson explained.
She notes that among the common ailments triggered by stress are interruption of sleeping habits, hypertension, heart disease and even death. In addition, research points to incidences where the DNA in the cells is destroyed, triggering the destruction of cells which could accelerate ageing.
To reduce the possibilities of the mental and emotional repercussions of stress, Dr Nicholson shared some subtle as well as not so subtle signs that you simply have too much on your plate and you need to take some time out to reorganise your life:
Of course, with so much on your plate, it's easy to pass constant forgetfulness off as simply having one too many things to do. However, if you are constantly going non-stop this will trigger the production of the stress hormone cortisol. And when there is too much cortisol it can make it more difficult to concentrate, cause memory problems, as well as interfere with learning.
Compromised immune system
Really, all it takes is one person sneezing in the office for you to come down with the cold. It becomes more difficult for your immune system to fight off viruses and other harmful organisms when your immune system is weakened, which is what happens when you are stressed, because your body is not able to adequately recover or replenish itself daily. Research suggests that stress suppresses your immune system so much that the sneezes and sniffles tend to be twice as bad because more pro-inflammatory compounds are produced when the virus hits the system.
Insomnia or oversleeping
When your mind is all over the place sleep can be difficult. In people who are stressed, their minds tend to be constantly going. They keep thinking about all that they have to do and they also take the worries of the events which occurred earlier in the day to bed. When this happens, it can keep you up all night. On the flip side, some research link a desire for sleep all the time and a lack of energy making it hard to get out of bed, to excess levels of stress.
Stress is associated with the production of negative emotions, so it is no wonder you will feel increasingly edgy and irritated. Since the natural response of the body is to switch to survivor mode once it is experiencing stress, you may notice that everything becomes a bother simply because the body cannot easily decipher the imaginative from reality. Therefore everything feels like a threat and it acts on it accordingly.
If your headaches or migraines are more excessive than usual, it could be a sign that you are stressed. Stress tends to increase the frequency of tense muscles, which therefore increases incidences of headaches and other unrelated pains throughout the body. Neck and back pains are also common in people who experience higher levels of stress.