This is what stress really does to your body

It’s pretty scary

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Maskot)

Stress can really sneak up on you. One minute you think you’re coping, the next you’re feeling completely overwhelmed. It affects everyone differently, and although you may not think stress is that big a deal, it actually has some alarming effects on the body.

We encounter different levels of stress all the time, but there are some things we can do to ease it and cope better, such as journaling for stress or using the best meditation apps to unwind.

Stress can come out as anxiety, exhaustion, or make you low and irritable—and according to experts at Delamere, it doesn’t just stop at your emotions or mood, it can affect your whole body.

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Jasmin Merdan)

Illness

Being stressed can make you far more susceptible to illness. That might seem crazy, but the experts say that stress reduces our lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell used to help fight off infection, making us more vulnerable to everyday germs.

We’ve all had that week where you're stressed about deadlines and meetings and then to top everything off, you start getting a cold as well. It always seems so unfair, like the universe is out to get you but nope, that’s stress for you!

Missed periods

If you’ve missed a period or noticed your period comes randomly too early or late, is lighter or heavier, this could be down to stress.

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Ashley Armitage / Refinery29)

The experts at Delamere say: “This is due to the rise in cortisol levels, which can suppress the hormonal cycle responsible for a woman’s periods and ovulations.

“If your stress levels continue to rise, there is also a possibility that your menstrual cycle will temporarily stop, and this is tied to a condition known as secondary amenorrhea.”

Sex drive

Ironically, sex is known as an incredible stress-reliever. But when you’re suffering from stress, sex can be the last thing on your mind. Again because of the increase of cortisol, you can find your libido drops.

Weight gain

You will probably have heard the term “stress eating”. Stress is known for increasing our appetite, making us crave carbs and sugar, which can lead to weight gain.

It can also become a comfort thing, where the sweet foods make us feel better. This can then lead to a habit of eating more than we usually do when we feel stressed out.

Conception

In some cases, stress can also make it harder to get pregnant because it "has the capacity to shut down the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, which controls the reproductive system.”

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Ashley Armitage / Refinery29)

Similarly, as well as affecting our menstrual cycle, it can affect ovulation.

Memory

Delamere's experts explain that when we are stressed, anxious or depressed our memory can be affected.

They say: “When our mind is overwhelmed, we are distracted instead of being fully observant. Stress can even affect how our memories are formed. When stressed, we often find it more difficult to generate short-term memories and transmit these into long-term ones.“

Heartburn

As if all of these weren’t annoying enough, stress can also give us heartburn. It can have an impact on our digestion, making it slower, which means food stays in our stomach longer, leading to a build-up of acid.

So what can we do to combat stress?

Martin Preston, founder of Delamere says: “The key to combating stress is to, first of all, begin from within. Steps such as eating healthily, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep are some of the key starting points to living a happier, healthier life. 

“If you find your stress levels are getting too high, it’s always best to talk about it, whether that’s to your loved ones or a professional. When it comes to dealing with stress, the important thing to remember is that you are never on your own and there are plenty of tools you can use to help you back on your feet.” 

So next time you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed remember, it's okay to take time for yourself and have some self-care days. What stress does to our bodies is no joke.