In the past, philosophers separated mind and body to try to explain the nature of consciousness. But their musings had an unintended consequence: it created an idea in the culture that what we think has nothing to do with the health of our bodies. Our bodies are physical and our thoughts metaphysical.
Science, however, shows this not be true. As far as we can tell, the brain generates consciousness, and it is just as much as part of the body as anything else. How you feel, therefore, could (and indeed should) have an impact on the rest of you.
Stress is a brain state designed by evolution to protect us from predators and ensure our continued survival. But if it is overactivated, it can make your body go haywire, precipitating a bunch of changes that you don’t want.
Here are some of the bizarre ways that stress can muck with your health.
It Could Wreck Your Jaw
What could stress possibly have to do with your jaw? It turns out that, for some people, the jaw is an outlet for negative energy. Many people with TMJ, for instance, grind their teeth, especially in their teeth, causing damage to the teeth and jaw itself, resulting in pain.
It Can Hamper Your Immune System
Being highly stressed puts you at increased risk of a compromised immune system. If you’ve ever gotten stressed and noticed that you gums ache, your stomach seems a bit off, or you picked up a cold, then the stress itself could be to blame. Stress causes downregulation of the thymus – a gland in the body responsible for churning out white blood cells that protect you from infection. Stress could also modulate the immune system causing autoimmune conditions, like lupus.
It Can Lead To Heartburn
Stress, as it turns out, is a leading reason why people seek heartburn treatment. In some people, stress can lead to the overproduction of stomach acid and dysregulation of the valve that prevents acid from leaking out of the stomach an into the esophagus.
It Can Lead To Skin Breakouts
If you find yourself with chapped hands or elbows, then it could be the result of stress. Stress can lead to conditions like eczema and psoriasis. It can also cause rosacea: a condition which results in the reddening of the face.
It Can Reduce Muscularity
The stress hormone cortisol seems to inhibit the body’s natural muscle-building process. If you’re hitting the gym month after month and not noticing any results, could stress be to blame?
It Can Lead To Weight Loss
High levels of stress, especially after a trauma of some kind, can suppress appetite to the extent that you start to lose weight.
It Can Damage Your Heart
Your heart is a complex organ that requires a number of body systems working properly to function correctly. High levels of stress can harm the heart through multiple mechanisms. Stress can lead to chronically-elevated blood pressure, putting more strain on the arteries that lead to the heart. And stress can also muck with the signals that your brain sends to regulate heart rate.