The Effects of Stress on Your Body
Stress affects everybody, from young students to professionals in the workforce. It’s unavoidable, and many people have even accepted constant stress as a part of life. While that is true to some extent, it doesn’t change the fact that too much stress is bad for us. Most people already know that stress affects their mental health, but they may not have taken into account its impact on physical health as well. Simply put, too much stress can literally make a person sick. Even if you eat well, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep, you could still be affected by the dangers of stress.
Stress and the Immune System
The biggest danger of being continually stressed is that constant tension can potentially lead to a weakened immune system. Oddly enough, your body does this by essentially creating an immune system response in the body itself. Stress causes the body to release pro-inflammatory cytokines, substances that initiate the body’s response against infections. When these cytokines are being released into the system at an appropriate rate, the immune system works like it’s supposed to. However, when chronic stress leads to a continually elevated level of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body, it can actually decrease its ability to fight infection and heal from injuries. It can also increase the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and other autoimmune diseases.
Because chronic stress can throw a person’s immune system into a kind of overdrive, it also increases their risk of developing allergies. Allergic reactions are brought on by the immune system in response to something it believes is harmful. In one study published in 2008, researchers found that when people with documented allergies are placed in a highly stressful situation, such as having to speak in public or needing to perform difficult math problems on the spot, their allergies actually become worse over the course of the next day.
Learning to Relax
Naturally, the only really effective way to combat chronic stress is to find a way to relax. This may be easier said than done for people with hectic work schedules, but it is important that they attempt to alleviate the effects of the more distressing elements of their lives.
If you’re under chronic stress, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with your primary doctor to discover the underlying problem. You may find out that you have other health problems that need to be addressed. While you’re speaking with your doctor, you can also ask for advice about finding ways to reduce the stress in your life and how to relax.
Once you are sure that your problems stem from stress, think about what may be causing it. If your stress is tied to your job, find out why. It could be that you have an overwhelming workload, or maybe you are having issues with a supervisor. The same process works for discovering what is causing you to stress in your home life. It may appear that there is little you can do to avoid some of this stress, but at least you can pinpoint the problem and work toward finding a solution.
As for the solution, that is largely up to you. Different people do different things to relax, and only you know what will work for you. Some solutions include finding ways of reducing your workload at your job, taking short breaks, finding your own quiet space at home, or taking a short vacation. Vacations don’t need to be elaborate affairs that require a week away from home. Sometimes, a short weekend fishing trip is enough.
No matter what you do to relax and reduce the stress in your life, it is important that you take steps to do so. Stress may not seem like a serious problem now, but it can cause problems later in life if it goes unchecked.