You can experience stress when facing drastic changes in your life, feel a lot of pressure at work or experience uncertainty. Overthinking, worrying about something and having overwhelming duties can make you feel stressed. Some things you might be fine with could be causing someone distress.
Stress can cause anxiety, restlessness, anger, irritability and sadness. It can also contribute to poor motivation, lack of focus and sleeping difficulties. If you’re stressed, you might get more frequent headaches, chest pains, upset stomach, fatigue and muscle pain. Another part of our body that it can affect is the eyes. Find out how from a local optician.
What Is Stress?
Stress is your body’s reaction to pressure. Your body produces certain hormones under stress, setting off a fight or flight response and activating your immune system. As a result, you’re able to act quickly during risky situations. Some of the most common indications of stress include headaches, nausea, digestive issues, heart palpitations, sweating and aches and pains.
Everyone can get stressed, sometimes even several times a day. For some, it could be just as simple as going to school or work. Individuals part of minority groups or members of the LGBTIQ+ community are at higher risk of experiencing stress. It’s the same for those under huge debt or facing financial instability. Disabled people and those with long-term medical conditions are also more likely to get stressed.
It’s a common misconception that stress will not do you any good. Did you know that it’s the stress response that allows you to face a huge crowd, get through the pain and even run a marathon? Once the overwhelming event is over, your stress hormones will return to normal and won’t leave you with any lasting effects.
However, elevated stress levels can negatively affect several parts of your body. How people react to stress widely varies. Some get tearful or find it difficult to sleep at night while others rely on alcohol, smoking or taking drugs. You might fail to cope with difficult situations as it leaves you in a permanent state of fight or flight. Over time, it can have long-term effects on your physical and mental health.
What Can Stress Do to Your Eyes?
Elevated Cortisol Levels
When you are stressed, your body generates cortisol or the stress hormone. It’s associated with increased heart rate, respiration, muscle tension and blood pressure. This powerful hormone is responsible for temporarily regulating your reproductive and digestive systems in nerve-wracking situations.
Being constantly stressed can cause your cortisol levels to become dangerously high. It can reduce blood flow from the eye to the brain, potentially leading to vision problems. Too much cortisol in your body can result in stress-related macular degeneration. It can cause vision-related learning disabilities in children, making it difficult for them to transpose words. As people react differently to stress, its treatments can vary from speech therapy to vision therapy. After an eye exam, your doctor will be able to determine the ideal treatment option for you.
While experts refer to cortisol as the stress hormone, adrenaline is called the fight or flight hormone. Together with cortisol, it accelerates your heart rate, diverting blood flow where it isn’t needed or to your digestive and reproductive systems. It then directs blood flow to your internal organs and extremities where it believes are at risk.
Adrenaline causes pupils to dilate to allow more light to the eyes, so they can easily catch possible threats. If you are constantly under severe stress, your body creates more adrenaline, causing prolonged pupil dilation, which can lead to light sensitivity. As a result, you might develop eye twitching and tightened eye muscles, causing stress-related vision conditions and discomfort.
Increased Risk of Inflammation
As much as possible, you should avoid stressful situations if you have autoimmune conditions, such as lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s. It’s because consistently increased stress levels have been associated with inflammation. Certain medications and natural treatments can help with the inflammation, but lowering stress levels is also beneficial to patients. It means that being mindful of your mental health is beneficial for your overall well-being.
Insufficient Oxygen Levels in Your Eyes
It’s easy to forget to breathe when you are under a lot of stress. When this happens, your oxygen blood levels decrease. It can prevent your brain and eyes from receiving sufficient oxygen. To avoid this from happening, do breathing exercises when feeling overwhelmed. Taking deep breaths will help calm your nerves and ensure your vital organs are getting ample oxygen.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Stress-Related Eye Problems?
It isn’t uncommon for people to get dizzy or light-headed when stressed. You might be feeling wobbly because of how stress affects your brain. Stress is also linked with blurred vision due to increased adrenaline levels. Excessive amounts of this hormone can put too much pressure on your eyes, blurring vision.
Being stressed for extended periods can cause eye strain. You might find it difficult to see in bright light or feel soreness in your eyes. Some patients report seeing floaters and having eye spasms. Your muscles are more tensed under stress, resulting in persistent headaches. Moreover, stress can cause watery and dry eyes, depending on your body’s reaction. If you are experiencing sudden changes in your vision or severe discomfort, schedule an eye examination immediately.
How Do You Manage Stress?
Eat a Balanced Diet
Besides helping you maintain a healthy weight, eating balanced meals is also beneficial to your mental health. It can reduce stress, strengthen your immune system, improve your mood and regulate blood pressure. On the other hand, foods rich in unhealthy fats and added sugar can have the opposite effects.
Complex lean protein, carbohydrates and fatty acids in meat, fish, eggs and nuts are essential to staying healthy. Include nutrient-dense foods in your diet and keep processed ones at a minimum.
Regular movement can help you sleep, improve your mood, and reduce stress and anxiety. Experts say that people who exercise more are more likely to get deep “slow-wave” sleep that aids in regenerating the body and brain. Exercising releases endorphins and endocannabinoids that improve sleep, sedate you and block pain. It’s the reason you feel better after your workouts.
Get Enough Sleep
It might be harder to sleep if you are stressed. Insomnia is a possibility if you experience difficulty sleeping at least three times a week for three months. Failing to go into a deep slumber can result in increased stress levels. Meditating, exercising regularly, setting a sleep schedule, getting some sun and not drinking caffeine close to bedtime can help you sleep. It’s also helpful to stop using your digital devices 30 minutes to an hour before bed.
Meditation can help reduce anxiety, chronic pain and stress. It can help you sleep easier, increase your energy levels and boost your mood. You’ll need to find a peaceful and quiet place to meditate. You can sit or lie down, focusing on your breathing or a word, object or phrase. Allow your thoughts to flow freely without judgment.
Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing allows your body to relax and create a state of deep rest. It can alter your body’s reaction to stress and bring more oxygen to your brain. Practicing deep breathing eases the part of your nervous system responsible for relaxation.
Spend More Time With Loved Ones
Another thing that helps relieve stress is spending more time with your family and friends. It naturally relaxes your nerves and reduces feelings of anxiety and sadness. Your body generates a hormone that disrupts your fight or flight response, causing you to relax.