Stress is a part of life. Most of us deal with normal acute stress – moments where we need to handle stress for short periods to protect ourselves or respond to external stimuli. But long-term, chronic stress can cause diseases or disabilities that affect us in a more pronounced way.
- Although colds are virus-related illnesses, those persons who are chronically stressed are more likely to come down with a full blown cold event. Their immune system may be cortisol resistant. The immune system “overreacts” to inflammation and doesn’t respond appropriately to mediate the virus attack.
- Weight gain is the most common symptom associated with stress. Cortisol levels increase as our stress levels rise. Many of us turn to food to comfort ourselves when our stress hormones are high. This inevitably leads to weight gain.
- Wounds heal more slowly when we have excess cortisol. The longer the stress goes on, the longer the immune response is disrupted. The body is then slow to rebuild cells.
- Insomnia may be a frequent night visitor when cortisol levels are high. Without enough restorative sleep other issues may arise. Mental and emotional impairment can cause people with cortisol disregulation to deal less effectively with stress in their daily lives leading to a vicious cycle.
- There is a direct connection to heart disease and chronic stress. In a new study publish in Nature Medicine in June, researchers found that a surplus of white blood cells caused hardening of the arteries supporting the previously theory that cortisol actually changes the texture of white blood cells, encouraging the cells to attach themselves to blood vessel walls.
- Major stress can send the brain’s neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine – out of balance, negatively affecting mood, appetite, sleep and libido. Depression can become a long-term stress response that alters brain function.
- Gut disorders are known to be a result of chronic stress. Stress can be a critical factor in irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, heartburn, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which is characterized by chronic inflammation.
- Back, neck and shoulder complaints are most common from people using technology equipment on a daily basis. We spend too much time sitting in front of computer screens, strain our necks typing on our cell phones and are generally physically inactive. Once the pain kicks in, the combination of physical inactivity and mental strain causes stress to intensify both its severity and its duration.
Learn to say no – no to unnecessary stress. Learn the simple ways to relax and practice them regularly. Use natural methods to treat stress rather than pills or alcohol. You may actually see a change in your weight when you have your stress under control. Disconnect from the electronic world at least once a week. Try meditating, journaling or just laughing as often as you can.