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How is Stress Impacting Your Health?

Aug 1, 2008
It is so easy to become stressed out in this day and age. You could be going along having a fine day when all of a sudden, someone will simply say two or three words that can totally throw you off or just ruin your day entirely. For example, if you've worked all day on a report or article (or something on the computer at work) and the next day you find out that somehow everything that you worked hard on the day before got erased, you might be upset. This would be even worse if you knew that the very same thing that was erased was due by 5pm that same day! Now, what are you going to do? Panicking is not always the solution. In this day and age, many people get caught up in work. We are supposed to work to live not live to work, but this is a fine line that most of cross without even knowing it. The average work week is 40 hours. However, most people cross over this easily because they feel they have to impress their boss or because they may have deadlines, etc. etc. But if you think about it, we earn a paycheck so that we can buy that nice house and have the comfortable lifestyle. However, if we're working all of the time, when do we ever really get to enjoy it? Twice a week on the weekends if we're lucky? It's no wonder people are so stressed!

Most of us are familiar with the emotional and mental toil that stress takes on our lives. It makes us irritable and cranky and often distant from those around us because of the tension that we are feeling when we are under stress. However, stress is not only a threat to our mental well being, but it can have very harmful effects on our physical health as well.

Just as stress creates psychological effects, so to, do we have physiological reactions to the stress in our lives. When we are confronted with stressful situations, our body kicks in and floods our systems with an array of hormones such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisone. This kicks our body into high gear preparing for that "fight or flight" response just as we would if we were encountered with a physical threat. In addition to giving us a boost of energy and pumping up our muscles to get ready for "action" our body also begins to shut off certain functions that are deemed as "non-essential" for a flight or flight response, including suppressing our appetites and immune system, the reproductive system slows and growth hormones are cut off.

While our stress responses are a natural process, the problem is that with so much continued stress in modern day life, the more frequently those responses are triggered the harder it becomes to shut them down. And when we are not given that "down time" to recover and repair from the effects of that stress our health is dramatically and negatively impacted. Prolonged exposure to stress will manifest itself in small ways like skin out breaks, problems with memory, loss of appetite, and headaches to much more severe medical problems including infections, obesity, and heart disease. And several other health conditions such as asthma and diabetes can be made much worse by the presence of stress. If you have been feeling the signs of stress then perhaps it is time to take a break for yourself and investigate some ways of reducing and coping with the stress in your life.
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