How Stress Affects Your Health
The American Psychological Association released a report in February 2021 about Stress in America and the numbers weren't good. The toll of the pandemic on mental health is staggering and over 80% of those surveyed reported emotions consistent with prolonged stress. In the last year, stress has taken a significant toll on Americans' physical health and women continue to be at risk for higher levels of stress than men. We know that stress affects our mental and emotional health, but it is important to remember the ways in which prolonged stress can also negatively affect your physical health.
Stress and Cardiovascular Wellness
A leading cause of death in America is cardiovascular disease. When stressors activate the fight-or-flight response, it causes physical reactions like an increased heart rate and constricted blood vessels. This situation can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.
Chronic stress also contributes to unhealthy behaviors like smoking and overeating, which further raises the risk of heart disease. In short, stress can significantly impact out physical health, leading to conditions like hypertension and heart disease.
Stress and Your Immune System
Your immune system is your body's defense against infection and illness. Stress reduces lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps fight off infection. When your immune function is compromised, you are more susceptible to colds, viruses, and other conditions.
You may have heard the term " stress-induced illness." This is because stress can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to getting sick.
Stress and Chronic Disease Management
Managing stress is essential to maintaining our physical health, especially if we have chronic health conditions. Stress makes it difficult to manage chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. When stress causes flare-ups of these conditions, it can lead to serious health consequences like hospitalization or death. For example, stress can trigger a heart attack or an asthma attack.
Ways to Reduce stress
While stress is a natural part of life, there are ways to reduce its impact on our physical and mental health. A healthy stress-reduction plan may include:
Physical fitness is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. It also reduces stress hormones like cortisol. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential for a healthy mind and body. When we're tired, we're more likely to feel stressed. Getting enough sleep can help us better cope with stress.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet can also help reduce stress. Unhealthy foods can contribute to stress and make it difficult to concentrate. Eating a balanced diet helps the body function at its best, making us better able to handle stress.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help to reduce stress. These activities help calm the mind and body, providing relief from stress.
Seek Professional Help
If you're struggling to cope with stress, seek professional help. A counselor or therapist can provide support and guidance to help you manage stress.
Stress is a natural part of life, but it can take a toll on our physical and mental health. There are ways to reduce stress, like exercise, sleep, and relaxation techniques. If you're struggling to cope with stress, seek professional help. Taking steps to reduce stress can improve our overall health and well-being.
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