Why stress is bad for your health
A temperamental teen. Moving day and half the house still unpacked. Whether it's a daily irritant or a huge life change, stress can seem inevitable. Still, you should try to overcome life's pressures because beyond the mental worry, stressing out compromises your immune system and makes you susceptible to everything from colds to cancer.
But don't panic! You can easily treat your stress -- and that's a lot better than tackling a serious illness later.
I feel fine. Should I really worry about my stress?
Excessive worrying may be a bad idea because when something rattles your cool, "it can definitely affect your physical health," says Simon Bacon, assistant professor of exercise science at Concordia University.
Scientists have found links between stress and several diseases and conditions, including:
And that doesn't just mean that being sick is stressful, so the disease comes first, then the stress. It can go the other way around: "Stress actually causes disease," says Bacon.
Figure out the stressful things in your life by paying attention to how you feel. Tense? Agitated? Listless and lacking energy? All these are symptoms of stress.
Look for patterns in your life as well as for major crises. Even small irritants that happen regularly are problematic because stress "accumulates and compounds," says Bacon.
How stress can make you sick
Stress is bad for your health in two equally important two ways, explains Bacon. First, being stressed can influence your behaviour. Someone who is under a lot of stress may exercise less often, eat less well, and care less about properly taking medication.
Second, stress creates physical effects in the body. A sudden source of stress, such as an argument, revs up parts of your nervous system that influence heart rate, breathing and digestion, and sends your body into a "fight or flight" state.
At the same time, it makes your body produce more cortisol, the "stress hormone." When your body remains in this revved up, high-cortisol state for long periods -- such as when you're chronically stressed -- its regular functioning starts to break down. In particular, your immune system may be unable to properly regulate itself.
Click to continue to learn how stress can provoke illnesses and diseases...
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