We all struggle with stress at some point or another, some more than others. It may stem from an important project at work, relationship issues, financial trouble, health problems, or any other situation that you become worried about. One tiny inkling of anxiety can often turn into a completely overwhelming feeling, affecting different parts of your life.
If you’re actually in imminent danger, stress is beneficial. It shocks the body into survival mode and prompts a fight or flight response. But if your body is in a continuous state of stress, it can affect more than just your thinking process. It can actually be damaging over time.
Chronic stress causes excess stress hormones to be released, including cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. With these excess hormones flowing through the body, your stress response becomes imbalanced, unable to shut off. As a result, your immune system suffers.
Stress triggers inflammation in the body, leading to high blood pressure and a lower resistance to illness, such as the common cold. Your body begins to heal more slowly, your sleeping pattern is disturbed, your skin begins reacting negatively and you start to feel completely overwhelmed emotionally and physically. As you can see, that tiny inkling of anxiety you had can easily snowball into something much greater.
1. Stress Increases Heart Attack Risk
Did you know that more heart attacks occur on Mondays than any other day of the week? Dubbed the “Monday cardiac phenomenon,” this is believed to be related to stress at work. During high-stress moments, the body releases hormones. Researchers believe these hormones can cause the dispersal of bacterial biofilms from the walls of the arteries, allowing plaque deposits to suddenly break loose, triggering a heart attack.
2. Stress is Linked to Diabetes
Research has shown that people who suffered from child abuse have higher levels of chronic inflammation, while those who grow up in poor socioeconomic conditions are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as adults, due to elevated inflammation levels.
3. Stress Can Lead to Memory Disorders
Prolonged stress can cause damage to brain cells, causing your memory to suffer. It disrupts the neuroendocrine and immune systems, and researchers believe it triggers a degenerative process in the brain that can result in Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Stress Can Cause Stomach Disorders
Digestive problems can form as a result of chronic stress. Stress has been shown to cause a number of detrimental problems in the gut, including decreased nutrient absorption, decreased oxygenation to your gut, and as much as four times less blood flow to the digestive system, which leads to decreased metabolism. Stress can trigger full-blown gut disease.
How to Manage Stress
Identifying the source or sources of stress in your life is the first step to managing your stress. If a job, relationship or another situation is causing you so much stress that it’s making you sick, it’s probably time for a major change. If your stress is caused by something small, find a healthy way to manage it. Exercise, meditate, go for a walk on your lunch break, spend time each day doing something that you love, take a bubble bath at night… Find a helpful way to cope with your stress and lessen your anxiety before it has a chance to physically affect you.
Watch the video below for more ideas on how to cope with the stress in your life: