I’m always yelling about self-care and I stumbled across something the other day that made me want to yell about it even more. It said that modern life overuses the stress response. Back in the day, our body’s stress response system was used for thing like avoiding being eaten by a tiger. As stressful as situations like that they occurred in short bursts. In today’s society, stress can be constant, so the body responds as if it’s always going to be eaten by the tiger. All. The. Time. There is almost no downtime from stress unless you make an effort to reduce it. The effects of stress go far beyond just having tense shoulders or a stress headache. Here’s a look at three of the most significant effects that stress has on the body.
Improving Mental Health
Stress can have a negative impact on your mental health. Chronic stress changes your body chemistry. It affects mood, attention, and memory. Excess stress has also been found to increase the risk of anxiety and depression. Because the brain’s neurotransmitters are being overused, repeated stress changes the way they perform. Eventually, repeated exposure to excess stress causes these bodily systems to malfunction, making it more difficult for a person to control their response. On the flip side, reducing stress can gradually improve mental health.
Improving Physical Health
Chronic stress eventually causes inflammation that affects the body’s immune system. This is why you tend to get sick when you’re under too much stress. It makes the body release large amounts of cortisol. According to ASEA, stress is often an underlying cause of chronic inflammation, which in turn, is linked to most major disease-related causes of death in the United States. For myself, inflammation is a big, painful problem that I have had to learn how to manage without medication. Learning to lower your stress levels through self-care routines like yoga and meditation can have long-term positive effects on your physical condition.
Stress Can Lead to Burnout
Too much stress eventually creates burnout. This is a situation in which a person has been under pressure for so long that they finally cannot function effectively anymore. All physical, mental and emotional resources have been tapped out. This kind of condition leads to a destructive chain reaction in thinking that’s hard to turn away from. Picture in your mind someone smashing their monitor and jumping up and down on their laptop. Yep, that’s severe burnout. If you feel that you’re in danger of burning out, seek the help of supportive friends or a counselor. Lessen the time you spend at work, or if that’s not possible due to the constraints of your job, think about finding a new job altogether.
Stress turns on the body’s fight-or-flight response, a system that was once used only to keep humans safe from the occasional dangers in their environment. Even though most people don’t have to run from tigers anymore, their chronically high-stress levels cause their bodies to react as if they do. Learning how to manage stress keeps the body and the brain healthier, which leads to better cognitive functioning and productivity.
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