You’re running late for work and can’t find your car keys. You feel a sense of panic rising in your chest. Your heart races as you search the house for the keys. When you finally find them, you rush out the door without breakfast – without so much as a shallow breath.
At this point, your nutrition isn’t the only thing that has gone out the window for the day. Your mind and body are already off – your morning scramble sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Still, somewhere among the discomfort and subsiding panic, you feel a strange sense of relief that you got where you needed to go in time. Stress is on your side in moments like these, like it is supposed to be.
Stress is a natural response to events or situations that cause us to feel threatened, challenged, or anxious. Short-term stress can help you focus and perform under pressure. It can motivate you to take action, so you can do things like finding your keys and getting to work on time!
Still, stress’s physical, emotional, and mental effects can be harsh. They can even be life-threatening even if, ironically, stress arises to save us. Even if an exciting new job or move is the stressor, the body still reacts the same. No matter how long stress lasts or what causes it, it harms our health.
So, where does that leave us regarding what we can do about it? What happens when stress is always on your side?
We already know that stress is not good for us. We feel it in our minds and our bodies when it takes over. We feel stress in the tightness of our chest, racing hearts, and sweaty palms.
We can’t always stop this from happening, but we can get better at recognizing stress and how stress plays out in our lives and bodies. We can ask ourselves if we are experiencing stress too intensely or frequently that it’s past the point of helpfulness.
The Health Impact of Stress
Several symptoms are associated with stress, including headaches, backaches, upset stomachs, chest pain, and rapid heartbeat. When stressed, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones contribute to digestive system, memory, and sleep problems.
When stress is chronic and unrelenting, our body’s response becomes constant. The overall health impact is alarming when our stress hormones and heart rate are consistently elevated.
The long-term impact of stress can cause health problems like chronic pain, heart disease, heart attack, asthma, and stroke. Stress also weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses. It increases your risk for chronic health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
In terms of mental and emotional health, stress can cause one to feel anxious, panicked, and helpless. If left unmanaged, stress can contribute to depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.
What You Can Do
Do you have a lot of stress in your life? April is National Stress Awareness Month, so this is the perfect time to reflect on the relationship between stress and your overall health and improve it.
The first step is recognizing that stress isn’t always a bad thing. Stress is a normal reaction, even in the most ordinary, non-life threatening situations. However, if stress is prevalent in your life, your body is preparing you to fight or flee danger more often than it should be. To address this, you must become mindful of the day-to-day triggers causing you to react.
Then, you can do various things to reduce stress and its impact on your life. First, make time for yourself. Include activities you enjoy in your weekly schedule and stick to them. Second, practice relaxation techniques like yoga, body scans, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation. And finally, talk to someone about what’s going on in your life – whether it’s a friend, family member, or therapist.
When it comes to our health, stress isn’t always on our side. It’s important to be aware of the relationship between stress and our physical, mental, and emotional health. Taking steps to manage and reduce stress can improve your overall health and well-being. Our team is here to walk with you on your journey to improved health through innovative therapies.