Most of us are familiar with the expression “don’t have a heart attack” in response to showing signs of anxiety or stress. While this common phrase is definitely an exaggerated warning, stress can actually pose a number of threats to both your physical and mental well-being. While stress is a normal part of everyday life and, in small doses, can actually help us achieve more, an overwhelming percentage of Americans experience dangerous levels of stress. In this article, we’ll discuss a few ways that stress negatively impacts your health and some tips for how to eliminate unnecessary stress.
Many of the physical effects of stress on the body can be explained with the ancient “flight or fight” mechanism that has been ingrained in our DNA since we evolved from the treetops. Essentially, stress hormones are signals to our bodies that we are in danger and must take corrective action to avoid negative consequences. One of the effects of stress is to trigger inflammation in the body. A certain amount of inflammation is desirable because it signals to the body that repair work is needed, but too much can begin devastating disease processes. In fact, excessive inflammation is now recognized as one of the leading contributors to disease.
Stress can cause an array of mental and emotional issues, including major depression in severe cases. Most of us have experienced heightened irritability during times of stress. Your stress can cause anger, which can affect your driving, so if you notice signs of reckless driving, stop and calm down before you continue on the road.
Lowered Immune Function
Stress can inhibit the body’s natural ability to fight off disease, making us more susceptible to common colds and flu as we go through our daily lives. Stress hormones interrupt immune system function in two ways: by inhibiting the activity of white blood cells to do their work of locating and destroying invading viruses and by causing inflammation.
A diet rich in whole foods, regular exercise, proper sleep, and other lifestyle adjustments can help keep stress in check and preserve your health. Many practices such as yoga and meditation have been proven to reduce stress levels as well. You don’t need to accept stress as part of your everyday life—take back control and your health by eliminating unwanted stress.
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