Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a syndrome that is not well understood by the healthcare community. What is known is stress can exacerbate RLS symptoms. Identifying stressful situations and learning how to cope within them may have a helpful effect on your long term over-all health and well being, as well as your RLS.
When coping with stress each persons body may react in different ways. The body can react in a physical, emotional or mental state in order to alleviate stress. Stress can be positive in a way that makes us more alert and helps us avoid danger. However, when experienced continuously and without a chance to give the body and mind a chance to relax it can lead to conditions of distress. Distress is a negative stress reaction that elicits physical symptoms such as headaches, high blood pressure, upset stomachs and sleeplessness.
Stress tends to disrupt our body’s processes due to continual release of hormones such as cortisol, which is produced by stress. Because of this our bodies may be at a higher risk for health problems. Some of the problems include:
- Heart problems
- Digestion problems
- Memory Impairment
- Skin conditions such as eczema
Stress also causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is mostly common in people who have undergone a stressful event like the death of a close family member or friend, falling victim to sexual abuse or to violence, involved in a bad accident, fighting in a war and even natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes. Symptoms of PSTD can be experienced immediately after the stressful event or months later. Some of these symptoms include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Avoiding places where the event occurred
- Numb feelings
- Guilt and depression
- Memory problems
Women have been known to suffer from more stress related problems than men and stress can even affect their menstrual cycle. For both men and women, high blood pressure is the most common health problem related to stress. This is a result of the body releasing a stress hormone such as cortisol to deal with the stress. When we experience a fight or flight reaction due to stress, our heart rate and blood sugar levels increase thus bringing about health problems.
Stress is not something that we will ever be completely rid of or can control, but it can improve if we work towards coping and minimizing it when possible. Doing this may be helpful as it may improve your symptoms of RLS.