Stress can be a good thing. It’s what stimulates your body’s “fight or flight” response in various situations. This response is what protects your body and allows you to act quickly when need be. However, too much stress can take a serious toll on your overall health: emotionally, mentally and physically.
When stress occurs, the Central Nervous System and in particular the hypothalamus, is responsible for telling your body to release its stress hormones. Typically, when the stressful situation has ended, your body will calm down and everything will go back to functioning normally. If the Central Nervous System isn’t functioning properly, the stress response will continue and that’s where the body begins to suffer.
In fact, stress is the number one cause of disease and many health conditions. High levels of stress are linked to increases risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. High blood pressure is also directly correlated to increased risk for heart attacks and strokes. In addition, stress can induce headaches, muscle pain and tension, chest pain and chronic fatigue. Chronic stress weakens the immune system which lessens the body’s ability to fight off diseases.
Chronic stress can also severely impact the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Stress causes you to breath faster, which can be a problem for those who suffer from breathing problems such as asthma or emphysema. Stress also causes the heart to beat faster and the blood vessels to constrict. This is what causes blood pressure to raise and in turn increases risk for the aforementioned conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.
Not only does chronic stress impact the body physically, but it also takes an incredible toll on mental and emotional health. Stress is linked to increased likelihood for anxiety, depression, insomnia and general irritability. Stress can cause severe mood swings as well. People who suffer from chronic stress are more likely to engage in harmful behaviors and develop addictions to alcohol and/or other drugs and eating disorders.
In good news, there are many ways to combat chronic stress. There are several techniques proven to relax the body and mind, which in turn provide relief from the negative effects of stress. One great technique to relax the mind is to take 10 to 15 minutes a day and write out exactly what you’re feeling. This is helpful to release the pent up energy and emotion. Exercising is also a proven technique to reduce stress levels. Exercising everyday will help your body release stress as well as strengthen your muscles and organs. Mediation is another great way to combat stress. Take 15 minutes a day to meditate and focus on the present as well as let go of the things you cannot control and that are causing you stress. Yoga is also very beneficial in lowering stress levels. It’s a great way to focus on breathing and many poses are great for internal organ function. Most importantly, keep in mind you’re not alone and that the feelings will pass.