Does stress affect health negatively? Absolutely! Studies show physical stress symptoms are behind at least 83% of the health problems leading to doctor visits. And that doesn’t include the psychological effects of stress.
But stress health effects can be positive too.
For example, exercise (when done correctly) is a beneficial form of stress. And, when faced with any kind of danger, stress causes an adrenaline rush that keeps you alert and energized, so you can protect yourself.
How Does Stress Affect Health Negatively?
Humans developed the ability to deal with stress thousands of years ago in order to survive. When faced with danger, our cavemen ancestors had to react fast and furiously to either fight off predators or run like the wind.
This “fight or flight” response causes the release of a gigantic load of stress hormones that start pumping and pulsing through your veins, causing:
- Your heart to race,
- Breathing to catch or speed,
- Your muscles to become hyper tense,
- The blood flow in your body to increase by 400%,
- And, to conserve energy, your digestion comes to a dead stand still.
So how does stress affect health? If you don’t use this burst of energy and strength to physically fight off the enemy or run away, you’re in trouble.
The prolonged “wear and tear” on your immune system eventually turns into a state of exhaustion. And that tired and fatigue all the time feeling you end up with is the first symptom of all degenerative disease.
Other early stress consequences include headaches, weight gain or loss, high blood pressure, indigestion, muscle aches, clenched jaw and grinding teeth, skin problems, insomnia, depression and diminished sex-drive.
Long-term stress effects include heart disease, diabetes, stroke and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Tips on How to Overcome Stress
Here are seven sure-fire ways to overcome the negative effects of stress.
1. Exercise regularly. Put that “fight or flight” response to work in your favor – exercise your stress away! Regular physical activity also helps you produce endorphins; the hormones that make you feel really, really good.
2. Be grateful. Start appreciating more of the good things in life. When you focus on the sunny side, the dark side begins to fade and more and more positive sunny spots start to appear. It may sound corny, but it’s true.
3. Let it go. Procrastination can sometimes be positive. Remember what Scarlett O’Hara’s said in Gone with the Wind. “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Then just let it go.
4. Eat healthy. Stress can bring on junk food cravings. But during stressful times it’s particularly important to eat for great health and stay levelheaded. Focus on healthy foods high in B complex and omega 3 fish oil.
5. Relax and breathe. When life gets too tough, realize “this too shall pass.” Take a deep breath, take a bath, take a walk or take a nap. Just don’t take a Valium. It only masks symptoms without fixing anything.
6. Laugh it off. Always keep your sense of humor. Look for the comedy in every situation. If that’s not possible, distract yourself with funny or feel-good movies, books and healthy activities that make you feel better.
7. Slow down. Pay attention to how you feel. If you’re pushing too hard, simplify or cut back whenever possible. Take care of yourself. Remember, if you’re not happy it will probably infect your family and friends.