Stress and Health
Whether from a charging lion or a pending deadline, the body’s response to stress can be both helpful and harmful. The stress response gives us the strength and speed to ward off or flee from an impending threat. But when it persists, stress can put us at risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer, and a variety of other illnesses.
Health Effects of Chronic Stress…
- Stress has been called America’s number one health problem. It can have profound effects on your immune system and your overall health. Estimates have placed stress-related problems as the cause of 75% to 90% of all primary care physician visits.
- Chronic or long-term stress disrupts nearly every system in the human body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
- Research shows that long-term activation of the stress system can even increase the risk of obesity. Stress can trigger cravings, influencing people to eat inappropriately, and some stress hormones may actually make the body more likely to hold on to stored fat.
- Some studies have shown a link between stress and developing certain types of cancer. For instance, research has shown that those women who experienced traumatic life events or losses in previous years had significantly higher rates of breast cancer. It’s unclear exactly how this link works, but some medical experts believe that stress decreases the body’s ability to fight disease, and similarly affects its ability to destroy cancer cells.
- Studies have indicated that stress can affect tumor growth and spread, but the precise biological mechanisms underlying these effects are not well understood.
- Stress also can lead to poor choices and unhealthy behaviors such as overeating, smoking, or abusing drugs or alcohol, all of which lead to long-term health problems.
- You’re never going to be completely rid of stress. The key isn’t in doing away with all of life’s pressures, but in how you handle them on a daily basis. Having strategies to cope with daily stress will help prevent and alleviate the impact of chronic stress on your mind and body.
- You may feel like the stress in your life is out of your control, but you can always control the way you respond. Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. Stress management involves changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself, and making time for rest and relaxation.
- A strong support network is your greatest protection against stress. When you have trusted friends and family members you know you can count on, life’s pressures don’t seem as overwhelming. So spend time with the people you love and don’t let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life. If you don’t have any close relationships, or your relationships are the source of your stress, make it a priority to build stronger and more satisfying connections.
- Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity. They also increase your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.
- Meditation is a way to calm your body and mind by focusing your attention on one thing, such as a phrase, an object, or your breathing. The most common way of meditating is to pick a word or phrase that you can say to yourself in coordination with your breathing. If you use a single word, repeat it when exhaling. If you are using a few words, try coordinating some of the words on the in breath, and others on the out breath. It’s ideal to mediate at least ten to twenty minutes a day.
- When you are under stress, you often inhale from your chest, which tends to be a more shallow and constricted way of breathing. Breathing deeply, inhaling from your abdomen instead of your chest, provides more oxygen to your bloodstream and can help you control your emotions and stay calm. To start, place your hands over your belly and slowly breathe in through your nose. Feel your stomach expand, and then slowly exhale. Just a few of these when you’re feeling stressed out can make a difference.
- More Evidence That Stress is Major Factor for Infections http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/07/16/stress-infections.aspx
2. Understanding Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Effects http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm
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4. Psychological Stress and Cancer: Questions and Answers http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/stress
5. Stress: A Cause of Cancer? http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/stress-a-cause-of-cancer/