You’ve probably been told before that stress is really bad for you. It’s something that is constantly rammed down our throats, and we’re constantly being reminded how stress can cause heart problems, cause weight gain and generally cause all manner of problems. This is not news, then. But what we don’t get told so often is precisely why stress is so bad for us or what it actually does to impact our health negatively. Read on then and we’ll look at why stress is such a problem and what you can do to prevent it – or at least to limit the negative consequences.
Stress and Your Body
The first thing to note is that stress has a profound and direct effect on your body – it increases your heart rate, increases muscle tension, and causes your blood to thicken. All of this is intended to make us more efficient at combat and better able to run away in order to escape danger. This is all controlled by the body releasing specific hormones – and those include dopamine, adrenaline, cortisol and glutamate, among others. These are our ‘stress hormones
As the heart rate increases and the blood vessels dilate, more blood is sent specifically to the muscles and the brain to enhance focus and physical performance.
This is great news again for fighting and for getting away from danger. But it also means that blood is being directed away from your other systems – away from your immune system, for example, and from your digestion. When you’re being chased by a lion or falling off a mountain, those things just don’t really matter quite so much!
The Long-Term Problem
The problem then comes when this is allowed to continue over a longer period of time. In the wild, chronic stress didn’t exist: we wouldn’t have to worry about debt or having a mean boss!
And when stress doesn’t go away, your immune system and digestion never get the attention they need. This is why you can get heartburn or become ill when you’re constantly stressed.
Meanwhile, your body is consistently releasing adrenaline, and your heart rate is consistently beating hard. Eventually, this can become a problem, and you become more likely to suffer a heart attack. And remember, your blood pressure has also gone up – making you significantly more likely to experience very high blood pressure.
To help counteract some of these issues, here are my top three tips:
1. Recognize When You’re Stressed:
The first step is to recognize that you are stressed. It’s amazing how many people maintain high levels of stress, and that becomes their modus operandi. When they get to that point, they don’t even realize that they are experiencing stress. If you are in this situation, you need to reflect back to a time when you were not constantly stressed out.
2. Find a Quiet Place:
You need a place where you can just get away from it all. Even if that is for only five to ten minutes a day, it can work wonders to reset your internal batteries and help you continue. It could be in a remote area of a park, or it could be going to a sauna in a gym or a massage.
3. Connect Socially:
We need contact with each other. Face-to-face contact is the best, but if that is not available, connect with people on social media. Strive to stay off business and political topics when you are stressed out. These will only add to your stress. Consider talking about music, funny stuff, or whatever you and your friends would like to talk about.