Stress: it can be dangerous to your health

What is stress?

Stress is a natural human response to pressure when faced with taxing, challenging and/or dangerous situations. That pressure doesn’t just come from what’s happening around us, but many times it comes from the demands we place on ourselves. Experiencing stress is part of being alive and some stress helps increase our alertness and energy to meet challenging situations. However, if stress lasts too long or overwhelms our ability to cope, it can have a negative affect on our health, wellbeing, relationships, work and general enjoyment of life which eventually can lead to increase in illness as our immune systems become weaker.

How Stress Sticks to you

How stress sticks to you

Effects of Stress on our Immune System

Ill health can occur when we are under stress because the productions of white blood cells is reduced (lymphocytes), limiting the body’s effectiveness in fighting off illness.  Unfortunately long term stress has been linked to the following conditions:

  • Coronary Heart Disease – the stress hormone cortisol causes artery blockages to build more rapidly; cholesterol levels have also been shown to increase under stress.
  • Muscles tension
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Depression
  • Canker Sores
  • Skin problems – skin disorders such as psoriasis can be triggered by periods of stress
  • Stomach ulcers – stress is not always the cause, but can trigger them and/or make them worse

Stress Relief Strategies

  • Humour – help reduce stress and its effects by laughing
  • 100 laughs is equivalent to 10 minutes of rowing
  • stress hormones are reduced after an episode of laughter
  • Exercise– prepares your body to better hand physical stress
    • a healthy body complements a sharp mind
    • studies have shown that active people are more optimistic, and optimism can help with your ability to cope with stress
    • exercise helps improve your breathing
  • Sleep– experiment to find the right amount of sleep that works for you
    • taking naps may also help alleviate stress
    • those who exercise tend to sleep better
  • Healthy Diet – eating a diet rich in nutrients, vitamin, minerals can help your body to better handle stress
  • Hobbies – enjoying a hobby will allow your mind to focus on something else other than your stressors
  • Music – finding the right music may help you to relax and lower your tension
  • Pets – studies have shown that having a pet can reduce one’s stress levels
  • Positive Thinking – a healthy attitude is a good way to cope with stress
  • Relaxation Techniques – yoga, deep belling breathing, stretching helps relax the body and mind
  • Sex – sex can be a great stress reliever both psychologically and physiologically
  • Spirituality – your faith can help you through stressful or depressing times
  • Time Management – try organizing the prioritizing your time
  • Vacations – when vacationing, concentrate on unwinding and don’t let it turn into a stressful event in itself
  • Volunteer – volunteering can make you feel great, helping to reduce your stress levels.

Stress Relief Foods

Foods to Avoid

  • Caffeine – a stimulant that releases adrenaline, a stress hormone, which interferes with sleep and leads to dependency of the body for regular caffeine fixes
  • Alcohol – a sedative that intensifies anxiety and irritability and breed dependency for regular use
  • Refined sugar – raises blood sugar quickly causing mood swings and decreases the ability to deal with stress

Foods to Consume

  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Raw seeds/nuts
  • Fruits
  • Cold water fish
  • Turkey or Chicken
  • Yogurt/Keifer
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Fermented Vegetables

And my final thought on stress…when to worry.  The golden rule of worry is to avoid worrying about anything over which you have little or no control over.  The sooner you accept something is beyond your control, the lower your stress will be.

What do you do in times of stress?  Share with me in the comments below how you take control of stresses in your life.  Or share with me what are some areas in your life that are causing the most stress.