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- the release of chemicals called catecholamines from the adrenal glands. These are a group of hormones that include adrenaline and epinephrine.
- an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, as the heart and lungs work harder. The rate of breathing also increases and the lungs take in more oxygen. The blood flow increases to get the body ready for added demands.
- dryness of the mouth and throat. Blood flow decreases to areas that are less important for basic survival, including the mouth. This causes dryness of the mouth and difficulty talking and swallowing.
- cool and clammy skin, as blood flow is diverted to vital organs and muscles
- slowing down of digestion of food
- psychological disorders. Chronic stress may develop into more serious problems, such as an anxiety disorder or depression.
- heart disease. Mental and physical stress is a trigger for unstable angina, which is chest pain due to not enough oxygen reaching the heart. Stress raises the risk for serious heart events, such as heart attacks, which can be fatal. Sudden stress can cause the heart arteries to constrict, causing blockage of blood flow to the heart. People under a great deal of stress are also more likely to have high blood pressure, which can further increase the risk of coronary artery disease.
- stroke. The high blood pressure which can occur with stress has been linked to higher risk of strokes.
- increased risk of infection. Chronic stress causes the immune system to become less effective. This leaves a person more vulnerable to viral illnesses such as colds and the flu.
- digestive problems. Prolonged stress can disrupt the digestive system, irritating the large intestines. This can lead to diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating, and cramping. Stress may predispose a person to peptic ulcers.
- weight problems. The effects of stress on weight can vary. Some people lose their appetite and lose weight. Others develop craving for "comfort foods" such as salty or sweet food, which can lead to weight gain.
- diabetes. Chronic stress has been associated with the development of diabetes and the impairment of a person's ability to manage the disorder.
- pain. Chronic pain caused by arthritis and other conditions may be made worse by stress.
- sleep disorders. it is important for a person under stress to get enough sleep. However, stress may cause trouble falling asleep, or cause the person to awaken during the night or early morning.
- skin. Stress plays an important role in a number of skin conditions, including acne, hives, psoriasis, and eczema.
- sexual and reproductive disturbances. Stress can lead to decreased sexual desire and erectile dysfunction, and may affect fertility. Stress hormones have on impact on the hypothalamus gland, which makes reproductive hormones.
- being physically active. This may relieve the "up tight" feeling that is common with stress. Walking, running, playing tennis, or working in the garden are some examples.
- talking to someone. It often helps people to share their concerns with others. Talking with a friend, family member, teacher, or counselor can help people see their problems in a different light.
- taking care of one's body. Getting enough rest and eating well can help increase a person's ability to deal with stressful situations.
- relaxing. It is important for individuals to balance work with play.
- practicing deep breathing. Breathing becomes shallow and rapid during episodes of stress. Taking deep breaths can help a person "wind down."
- getting involved with other people. People may feel better by helping someone else. It is also helpful to establish a support system.
- making lists. Making a list and eliminating items when they are complete can help make tasks feel less overwhelming. It also lends a feeling of accomplishment.
- not holding back tears. Sometimes a good cry makes people feel better.
Stuart and Sundeen, Principles and Practice of Psychiatric Nursing, 4th edition, 1991
The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997
National Institute of Mental Health Stress, [hyperLink url="http://www.stress.org/" linkTitle="www.stress.org"]www.stress.org[/hyperLink]