Stress can take a toll on our bodies and minds.  In the way that our body can manifest stress through headaches, the common cold, sweaty palms and fatigue, stress can also affect our minds. When you have positivity going on in your life – success at work, a healthy relationship waiting for you at home, and living a wholesome, well balanced life, your stress should be minimal. However, if you aren’t eating right, working overtime on a regular basis, and running into financial, personal and/or professional difficulties, your mind can develop many reactions to stress. The end result? When your mind is affected by stress, so is every facet of your life.

How Your Mind Works Under Stress

Did you know that the effects of stress can actually change your body’s chemical make-up? Hans Selye, the famous Hungarian endocrinostresslogist, defined stress as the failure of person (or animal) to properly respond to internal or external pressures. Thus, it is a whole-body issue. With stress, comes a change in your nervous system. Feeling threatened by an approaching stranger or experiencing a natural disaster can send a message to your nervous system that something is seriously wrong, and prepare you for the sensation of being threatened. Wonder why your heart rate speeds up and you breathe faster each time that debt collector calls you? It’s actually due to your adrenal glands that are releasing adrenaline and various other hormones to your brain and muscles. (That’s why, should you need to run away from danger, you’ll have the extra speed and thought process to do so!)

Derived from the word “distress”, stress causes your immune and reproductive systems to go on hiatus which is why you tend to get sick when dealing with stress. Chronic acne, the reoccurring cold and even sexual disorders such as erectile dysfunction can be simply caused by the stress in your life. When the very act of a stressful event has passed (such as a traumatic event like getting into a car crash or being robbed), your body goes back to normal. Your nervous system acts as it once had.

Eustress vs. Distress

stressAlthough most of us associate stress as a bad thing, not all stress has to be negative. In fact, a lot of the stress we experience is needed to create new memories, which is the purpose of the release of norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is the cause of stress affecting our brain but it also is responsible for the change in our mood. Not a bad deal when we are able to turn our frown upside down! When our brain produces norepinephrine, we have the ability to turn a dismal attitude of a stressful state into a challenging one, allowing us to use our right brain’s problem solving skills, look at life’s present situation with creativity and find a solution for the future. Additionally, it is only through episodic exposure to stress that we grow as human beings. Exercise is a great example of this. In exercise, you put your body through unnatural stress for the sake of improving its function and performance through adaptation.

On the other hand, “bad” stress manifests throughout our body quickly and in many ways. When our ability to adapt to stressors is overwhelmed, or your supply of resources is depleted, stress can lead to exhaustion and physical/psychological disrepair. Physically, be on the lookout for reoccurring head colds, migraines, excessive weight, loss of appetite, joint pain, back pain or shoulder pain. Mentally, most people who allow themselves to slip into chronic fatigue over stress find themselves trapped in depression, anxiety, and anti-social behavior.

In America, we value the tireless worker, the corporate CEO who lives in his office (instead of at home), and the aloof John Wayne-type, as examples of success and wholeness. In America, we are dead wrong. Because of our inordinate value for business and stress, we often do not see the warning signs of serious mental trauma until it’s too late. If you are beginning to notice these sorts of symptoms in your life and relationships, then find out what the stressors are that are plaguing your mind the most. Consider stepping back from a few of your activities, and plan some time for a vacation where you can not only rest physically, but where you can begin to seriously consider the deep life questions that you ask yourself daily but never have time to think through. Some of the most successful and whole people who have ever lived, were not the least busy, but they were well-adjusted and they viewed their lives with purpose. Avoiding psychological stress can, in many ways, be synonymous with finding purpose in your life that provides a framework in which you do everything else. You are not a machine! You are a person! And persons are about more than what they do.

With the good comes the bad: as we develop necessary adrenaline and hormones for good growth, we also can develop some unfortunate side effects. Stress is all about management, and the better we can conquer and solve stress through creative problem solving, the better we can handle anything life throws our way.

Author Bio: Heather J. writes on behalf of TotallyMoney.com, your secret to a stress-free life!