Though it may not always feel like it, our bodies were actually designed to deal with stress. For example, when your brain senses a threat, it tells your body to release hormones that help it respond. This is the “fight-or-flight” stress response you’ve probably heard about – it’s what helped our ancestors run away from a threat. Then, once the threat is gone, your body returns to normal.
But your body doesn’t distinguish a true threat (such as being chased by a tiger) from the stress brought on by a tough day at work and a frustrating commute. So what happens when the stress doesn’t end and your body doesn’t have the chance to get back to normal?
Chronic, ongoing stress like this is a growing concern. In fact, 25% of Americans rank their stress levels as an eight on a scale of one to 10, according to the American Psychological Association’s most recent yearly stress surveys. And 50% rate their stress between a four and a seven.
Research has shown that living in a state of constant stress can take a toll on your health in many ways. Stress can affect:
- Muscle tension or pain.
- Chest pain.
- Stomach problems.
- Sleep difficulties.
Your overall health:
- High blood pressure.
- Clogged arteries.
- Weight gain and obesity.
- Overeating/poor eating habits.
- Drug or alcohol abuse.
- Tobacco use.
- Lashing out at others.
- Social isolation.
- Becoming more sedentary.
- More easily angered or agitated.
- Lacking motivation and purpose.
- Difficulty staying focused.
- Feeling overwhelmed.
Stress isn’t something to be taken lightly. Take a few minutes to evaluate your stress and think about what actions you can take to lower it. And check out this month’s articles for tips to relieve tension, fuel your body and find you calm.
- Harvard School of Public Health – hsph.harvard.edu
- Mayo Clinic – mayoclinic.org
- National Institute of Mental Health – nimh.nih.gov
- American Psychological Association – apa.org