Stress: it’s something we all experience, but it is not something we have to take lying down! When you are in a stressful situation (or living a high stress lifestyle) it is hard to see a way out. But it is important to manage our stress before it wreaks havoc on our health.
Here are 4 ways you might not know your stress is killing you—and what to do about it.
Increased Heart Rate
It’s a no-brainer: stress increases your heart rate. When you are exercising or intentionally getting your body moving, this can be a good thing! However, your heart should not stay working too hard or for too long without rest. This puts pressure on your cardiovascular system.
Over time, this pressure reduces the ability of your heart to function properly, putting you at increased risk of heart attack or even stroke. The compromised heart muscle will also be more vulnerable to heart disease and other heart ailments. The trickiest part about managing this aspect of stress is that you often won’t know the extent of the damage until it is too late. Yikes!
Exacerbating or Causing Chronic Diseases…
If you already have a chronic disease like asthma or emphysema, stress will surely exacerbate your symptoms. There is reason to believe that symptoms associated with respiratory diseases like asthma will also be triggered by the onset of stress.
Additionally, stress can actually cause type 2 diabetes by inhibiting your body’s ability to produce insulin to meet the need of your body. When you are stressed, your liver releases extra glucose to give you a burst of energy to meet the demands of the stressful situation. But over time, your body will have an increasingly difficult time producing insulin to balance it out.
…or Other Diseases, like Cancer
Stress makes your body a fertile breeding ground for diseases such as cancer. While increased cortisol levels are intended to help you rise to the challenge of a fight or flight situation, we usually are not in life or death situations when we are experiencing stress. Usually, stress is as a result of situations with lesser, but still very pressing, stakes.
But having your body pumped full of cortisol every time you get a “past due” slip in the mail is not healthy. Because we are not using up the hormone via physical labor, cortisol runs rampant for long stretches in our body and makes us more vulnerable to illness and disease. It generally deteriorates the state of your body to function well on a day-to-day basis.
Pain Inhibiting Movement
According to Houston chiropractor Dr. Brett Franson, “Stress is the leading cause of neck pain.” And there is nothing quite as painful or as dejecting as experiencing chronic neck pain! When we experience neck pain, back pain, or joint pain, we are less likely to move our bodies. It seems intuitive: why would we move the part of our body causing us pain?
But the truth is that moving less actually does our body a disservice. To maintain a healthy body and mind, regular exercise is non-negotiable. Everyone knows that a sedentary lifestyle will kill you slowly and painfully over time. Worse, the longer we refuse to exercise our pained joints, muscles, necks, and backs, the harder they will become to rehabilitate.
What to Do
So now that you are sufficiently warned of the disastrous havoc stress will reap upon your body, what can you do about it? Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to stop the cycle of stress right now!
Even better, you can scale up your efforts to reduce stress in your life over time for the best results. Perhaps you will require some drastic lifestyle changes, but you should concentrate on one at a time so that you are not overwhelmed. (Obviously, stressing yourself out over eliminating stress is counterproductive, so let’s avoid that at all costs!)
First, try to incorporate more “me-time” into your daily life. Even if it is just thirty minutes a day dedicated to reading a book before bed or luxuriating yourself with an extensive skincare routine, do it! Paint your nails, go for a walk by yourself, listen to some music. Remind yourself that you are worth taking care of.
Then, exercise more! You don’t need to carve out two hours of your day at the gym. Even taking a brisk walk around the block with your dog is better than nothing. If you like the way you feel after a couple of weeks doing this, then you can ramp up your efforts with some serious workouts (if you so choose).
One super popular and beneficial workout that has a low barrier to entry is yoga. You don’t even need to attend a class. There are plenty of free, online tutorials for yoga routines intended to stress-bust.
And, finally, do not be afraid to seek help. Whether it is in the form of a therapist or medication, there are so many remedies that can help you manage your cortisol levels. Cannabidiol or CBD is one fantastic, all-natural remedy that is widely available. It changes the lives of many people, and there aren’t really any downsides to just trying it.