Health Tips – Managing Stress
Stress within your comfort zone can help you perform under pressure, motivate you to do your best, even keep you safe when danger looms. But when stress becomes overwhelming, it can damage your mood and relationships, and lead to a host of serious mental and physical health problems. The trouble is that modern life is so full of frustrations, deadlines, and demands that many of us don’t even realize how stressed we are. Whatever your job, by recognizing the symptoms and causes of stress, you can take the first steps to reducing its harmful effects and improving your quality of life.
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus. This is known as the “fight or flight” or mobilization stress response and is your body’s way of protecting you.
When stress is within your comfort zone, it can help you to stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life—giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. Stress can also help you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV. But beyond your comfort zone, stress stops being helpful and can start causing major damage to your mind and body.
The effects of chronic stress
The body’s nervous system often does a poor job of distinguishing between daily stressors and life-threatening events. If you’re stressed over an argument with a friend, a traffic jam on your commute, or a mountain of bills, for example, your body can still react as if you’re facing a life-or-death situation.
When you repeatedly experience the mobilization or fight-or-flight stress response in your daily life, it can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can shut down your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, raise blood pressure, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, speed up the aging process and leave you vulnerable to many mental and physical health problems.
Health problems caused or exacerbated by stress include
1. Depression and anxiety
2. Weight problems
3. Auto immune diseases
4. Skin conditions, such as eczema
5. Reproductive issues
6. Pain of any kind
7. Heart disease
8. Digestive problems
9. Sleep problems
10. Cognitive and memory problems