How Stress Puts a Strain on Your Life
by Tracey Pollack
We all experience stress from time to time, but we all experience it differently. For some, it’s the daily frustration of a traffic jam or the fear of missing a deadline. For others, it’s the result of a major life event, such as moving, losing a loved one, financial strain or personal trauma. No matter the case or cause, stress is simply a natural reaction to changes and challenges in life. It may be a single or short-term occurrence, or it can be chronic and happen again and again over a period of time. But if you’re constantly feeling strained and drained, the pressure may cause bigger problems with your body, your mind and your life than the ones that are stressing you out! Discover the many effects of stress and how they can quickly become a burden on your physical health, mental well-being and overall quality of life.
- Stress Can Make You Sick
If you’re sick and tired of always feeling worried and hurried, don’t be surprised if you soon become sick and tired! Numerous studies have shown that stress can lower your immunity, which may explain why you catch a cold during stressful times in your life. See, chronic stress prevents your immune system from functioning normally, which leaves you vulnerable to illnesses and various health conditions. As a result, learning how to handle pressure well may be the secret to actually staying well.
- Stress Messes with Your Mind
The damaging effects of stress go far beyond the physical by wreaking havoc with your mood, your emotions and mental health. Whenever you feel stressed out, you experience all kinds of different emotions, such as anxiety, anger, fear, frustration and sadness. You may even experience several at the same time, which can affect your body and mood, appearing as headaches, insomnia, irritability and restlessness. For some, stressful events become too hard to handle and lead to symptoms of depression.
- Stress Hurts Your Heart
The heart of the problem is that stress can physically damage your heart. That’s because stressful events increase your heart rate and constrict your blood vessels. As a result, your heart is forced to work harder, which quickly raises your blood pressure. So it should come as no surprise that the American Institute of Stress found an increase in the rate of heart attacks following the stress of natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. In addition, coronary heart disease is much more common in people that live with chronic stress. For all of these reasons, managing stress is an idea worth taking to heart.
- Stress Packs on the Pounds
Stress can feel like having the weight of the world on your shoulders, but that weight may actually be on your belly! According to the Mayo Clinic, there is a clear correlation between weight gain and stress. That link is due to a hormone called cortisol, which gets released during stressful times. Studies have found that cortisol can make your body hold onto more fat tissue and store it around your belly. Adding to the weight of the problem, cortisol increases your cravings for sugary and fatty foods. Since stress produces cortisol, you’re more likely to reach for those calorie-packed foods to help you feel better. Just be aware that those extra cinnamon rolls and egg rolls will probably end up as belly rolls!
Fortunately, there are many ways to manage and minimize stress, such as getting regular exercise, learning relaxation skills, spending time with people you enjoy and simply keeping a sense of humor. Since stress will always affect our lives, the only hope is to learn how to cope.