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Stress Awareness Month

Throughout the month of April, UCA and the UCA Women’s Center joins medical professionals across America in honoring National Stress Awareness Month, which has been commemorated in the U.S. since 1992. The goal of Stress Awareness Month is to educate Americans about the damage that long-term stress can have on the body, both mentally and physically. Extended periods of chronic stress can have a significant impact on a person’s overall health that can result in the development of a variety of conditions. This blog will discuss how chronic stress can impact urological health and how stress management can play a part in preventing the damage caused by chronic stress.

HOW STRESS IMPACTS THE BODY

As odd as it is to hear this, stress can often be a good thing. When we encounter any type of challenge or unforeseen change in our daily life, the human body is designed to produce a series of mental and physical responses that help us deal with these obstacles. Most commonly known as the “fight-or-flight” response, stress results in our autonomic system kicking into overdrive, resulting in changes in the body’s heart rate, vision, breathing, etc. This stress response helps the body stay more alert and more energized so we can take on whatever challenge is ahead, whether it’s pulling an all-nighter to prepare for a big job interview or navigating the warzone that is after-school carpool traffic.

It’s only when we experience this stress response for long periods of time that our bodies can experience significant negative effects, as chronic stress can cause high blood pressure, digestive issues, and chest pain, not to mention mental and emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Chronic stress can be the result of major life changes such as unemployment, financial struggles, or a death in the family. Unless properly managed through daily de-stressing techniques and exercises, chronic stress will eventually result in more significant damage to the body as a result of the constant stress symptoms.

Some of the most notable urological conditions that can be brought on by chronic stress include:

  • Urinary Incontinence – One of the most recognizable physical stress responses is the tensing of urinary muscles, which allows the body to resist the urge for a bathroom break in moments of high stress. Unfortunately, chronic stress can weaken the urinary muscles as a result of the constant tensing of these muscles, which can lead to more frequent urination as a symptom of urinary incontinence.
  • Interstitial Cystitis (IC) – This condition often causes pain or discomfort in the bladder and the surrounding pelvic region. The pain may worsen as the bladder fills or is emptied. Stress can instigate an IC flare, but more importantly, it can often prolong it, resulting in more long-term pain in those with chronic stress.
  • Uterine Prolapse – In periods of stress, the body produces a pelvic stress reflex response that causes the pelvic floor muscles to actively contract. Chronic stress can lead to these muscles weakening due to extended periods of active muscle contraction, potentially resulting in uterine prolapse.

THE IMPORTANCE OF STRESS MANAGEMENT

Just as it is essential to know the role long-term stress plays in our overall health, it’s equally important to understand the value of stress management in preventing these potential issues as a result of chronic stress. There are numerous lifestyle changes that can help reduce the frequency of stress, such as maintaining a healthy diet, getting at least 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. In addition, activities such as yoga, meditation, and even simple breathing exercises can help keep stress levels balanced and in check on a daily basis. More importantly, finding time to relax and routinely check in with your mental health can do wonders for both stress levels and overall emotional health.

Our experts at the UCA Women’s Center provide an array of services specializing in the care of various female urological, sexual function, and pelvic floor conditions. For more information or to schedule a consultation, visit ucawomenscenter.com or call 205-930-0920.

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