If you’ve ever woken up with a sore throat and immediately thought, “Why am I always the one who catches a cold in the office?” Or that you’ve spent several sleepless nights worrying about an impossible deadline, what I’m about to tell you won’t surprise you. In the world, the cost of stress at work is around 1.6 billion euros per year. It affects 4 out of 10 employees. According to the WHO, our country is the 3rd to record the greatest depression related to work.
Here it is, it’s good, we are dressed for the winter.
And if you’ve ever dropped 1 quart of ice cream or skipped your gym session after a tough day at work, you know you’re not making your healthiest decisions when faced with continuous pressure.
You might think that stress at work is normal, that a difficult week will be balanced by the next. But stress has a more devious and profound impact on your body than most of us realize. It doesn’t just lead you to make unhealthy choices; it affects you physically.
The stress mechanism
Your body is dependent on hormones to keep your metabolism, digestion, reproduction, and other systems working properly. Chronic work stress, such as long working days or conflict with your boss, can make these hormones panic, which wreaks havoc on your body.
Here is how it works:
Your body and hormones are designed to protect you from harm. You’re driving, and a car pulls into your lane unexpectedly. Your body goes on alert, releasing two hormones that help you cope with impending danger: adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline increases your heart rates and blood pressure, while cortisol raises your blood sugar levels and slows down your immune, reproductive, digestive, and even handling risks. Adrenaline can trigger your heart rate to go up, while cortisol will bring you down in a win-win. That resulting “adrenaline boost” is what allows you to smash the brake pedal in a fraction of a second when this car cuts you off. And so to save your life.
What happens to you when there is stress at work?
In the short term, this reflex – also called fight or flight – is very effective. Once the danger is over, your system returns to normal. Your heart rate decreases, and your body begins to function normally again. Have you noticed that you feel completely exhausted for a few seconds or even minutes after a stressful event?
You wouldn’t want to live in this “fight or flight” state 24/7. It drains your energy stores and makes you tired. And yet… Your body deals with all causes of stress in the same way. Whether it’s triggered by an impending car accident or by your boss messing around with you on a case, it’s the same.
When it’s temporary, it’s like walking away from that car. Your body is getting back to normal. You continue on your way by insulting the bad driver in passing—end of the story. But if you’re stressed at work 14 hours a day and responding to emails at night, there is never a chance for the body to heal. Your adrenaline and cortisol stay in a tight flow all the time, causing many seemingly unrelated physical signs of stress. So, then, how many signs are you counting?
Six signs that stress at work is having a physical impact on you
1. You gain weight without understanding why
Even watching your diet and physical activity, you feel bloated. The culprit is cortisol. In stressful situations, this hormone causes us to store more fat to preserve energy. Very useful in a survival situation, it is less useful in the comfort of our modern offices. But it still causes stubborn weight gain in the face, upper body, and torso.
While this fat storage can occur regardless of your eating habits, stress makes you addicted to anything fatty and sweet, a regressive tendency. So, are you familiar with that feeling of “needing” a pastry after a meeting that went wrong? You are far from unique, and now you know why.
2. You have skin problems
The cortisol peaks caused by stress also encourage the skin to produce more sebum, which clogs pores and creates acne. It also worsens pre-existing skin problems like eczema.
3. You suffer from pain, or you hurt yourself more often
How are you going to be at 70, seeing how you feel at 30?
You oscillate between searing pain and squeaking, cracking, moving… in short, you do not feel well in your body. Extreme stress prevents our bone-building cells from forming fully, which can lead to injury and possibly osteoporosis.
4. Your sleep is disturbed
Have you only wanted one thing since your alarm clock went off this morning, go back to bed? Still, no way to sleep when the sandman is supposed to have passed. And you repeat this hellish cycle every night. Nothing changes except the depth of your dark circles …
Our stress hormones are programmed to adapt to periods of wakefulness and rest. When our stress level is balanced, hormones increase when we wake up in the morning and down at night when we sleep. Unfortunately, when one is faced with a constantly high-stress level, its hormones have random impacts. These totally out of rhythmic hormonal spikes are responsible for your restless and sleepless nights.
5. You feel muddy or nauseous
Have you noticed this tendency that we all have to go to the bathroom before a big public speaking? How is transit particularly efficient in these situations?
Stress has an impact on your digestion. High cortisol disrupts your digestive system, causing you to digest food more slowly, causing bacteria to grow in your intestines. This contributes to various digestive inconveniences that etiquette does not allow us to mention here. In any case, it is very unpleasant.
6. If there’s a virus lying around, it’s for you
When the busiest times of the year come, you still get a cold every single year. The excessive administration of cortisol weakens your immune system, possibly the most troubling effect on your health.
Constant stress forces your body to devote every available resource to its survival in any way possible. Because of this constant tension, your body is less prepared to deal with illnesses that may arise.
Do you think I’m exaggerating? Imagine that your body is a restaurant a little on the staff level. In normal times, the services’ management goes more or less well, but it still works. But when the retired boules association’s annual convention arrives on a Saturday noon, everything goes wrong. The same goes for your health.
When you grow older, many chronic diseases and physical disorders become more common, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, tumors, or conditions linked to being overweight. The ball is in your court. By reducing your stress, you can restore normal hormonal balance and thus a healthy immune system.
Living under constant stress is like pulling on a rubber band. By dint of pulling on it, one day, it will fart between your fingers. And that hurts. Before you get there, be aware of what you do to yourself daily. The best wages, the most rewarding positions do not justify making your body suffer and imposing a rhythm that it cannot hold in the long run.
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