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How You are Killing Yourself and You Don’t Even Know It!
Did you know that a minimum of 60 percent of all diseases can be traced back to chronic stress? Chronic stress negatively affects every single part of your body, slowly killing you, and you don’t even realize it. Most people dismiss stress as being “a little pissed off” or “a little uptight,” but it is doing so much more to you than you ever dreamed possible.
Stress causes a chemical chain reaction in your body and when left unchecked, it can push you right over the edge towards uncontrolled reactions, illnesses, and deadly diseases.
Some common physical feelings many people have when they feel stress:
- Muscle tension or pain
- Stomach upset
- Feelings of restlessness
- Lack of motivation
- Angry outbursts for little or no reason
- Chest pain
- Lower sex drive
- Social withdrawal
- Overeating or undereating
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
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Unfortunately, our bodies don’t know the difference between being chased by a cougar or oversleeping the day of the big meeting. Your body goes through a similar reaction whenever you feel stressed about something:
- The Alarm – Fist, your brain will receive the message that you are faced with a potential threat.
- The Brain is Triggered – Your amygdala, the portion of your brain that makes decisions, sends this message to the hypothalamus.
- Hormone Production – The hypothalamus will release cortisol and adrenalin, two stress hormones, into the blood.
- Your Body Reacts – Adrenalin will make your heart beat faster and pump more blood to the muscles, in case you need to run. Cortisol boosts blood sugar levels so your body has the food it needs to deal with the situation.
- Your body is now ready to fight or run like the devil!
Our bodies are still designed to deal with short term stress, such as outrunning a falling tree or facing an angry bear. After you dealt with the problem at hand, your body would return to normal. In fact, Stanford University professors believe that acute stress can actually improve your immune system function and enhance your health. Short term stress is something our bodies understand.
The real problem arises when we are living in a virtually perpetual state of stress and the body never really returns to normal. Taking a two week vacation and a few 3 day weekends are not nearly enough, nor are they long enough, to allow the body to return to normal. Read also what brings on chronic stress.
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While some people do adapt to on-going stress mentally, it doesn’t change the terrible toll stress is taking on their bodies. It may appear that some people take stress in stride, but inside, quietly, their body and mind is accumulating all the negative effects and one day either the mental or physical health falls apart.
Almost every single organ in the body is affected by stress, including:
- The Immune System – In the short term, the immune system benefits from stress but over time, the continual presence of cortisol compromises your immune system. This makes you much more susceptible to disease, infections, and illnesses. It will take you much longer to recover, even from small things like a common cold. You will develop a low-grade inflammation and this leads to numerous diseases, even cancer.
- The Digestive System – The constant flow of stress hormones upsets your stomach and intestines, making it much less efficient at absorbing nutrients from your food, which can lead to weight gain. Many people who feel constant stress develop ulcers and other digestive disorders. Any previous digestive problems are only made worse by chronic stress. You might feel nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation as stress affects how food moves through your body.
- The Muscles – The muscles in your body, when they are constantly filled with adrenalin, will become very tight and can sometimes cause intense pain. People carry their stress in different muscles, but the most common areas are the neck, shoulders, and back. Many people end up going to chiropractors for stress related muscle tightness.
- The Brain – When stress does not go away and the brain cannot return to its relaxed state, the body begins to experience physical and emotional changes. You might “fly off the handle” for no reason, suffer from insomnia, or terrible headaches, including cluster headaches. Some people turn to alcohol or drugs for some relief or you might find that you become depressed, irritable, or feel unsociable.
- The Heart – When your heart rate is increased for long periods of time, like any other muscle in the body, it becomes tired. You can also develop high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks, heart disease, and stroke. Many diabetics have lived stressful lifestyles.
- Libido and the Reproductive System – Stress causes both sexes to have interrupted or lower levels of hormones, which results in a lower sex drive. Women can have irregular menstrual cycles and both sexes can experience infertility problems due to this lack of proper hormones.
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Not everyone is alike. Two people can encounter the same experience and while one finds it exciting, the other person is scared to death. However, you know when and how much stress you go through on a daily basis, so you are the best judge of whether or not you are under chronic stress.
Stress is contagious on occasion. Don’t allow yourself to take on someone else’s stress. It’s easy to get caught up in a conversation with someone and feel their stress. Talk in a calm and gentle manner, lowering your voice so that your body will realize that there is no threat or danger.
You can take a few deep breaths and tell yourself that everything will work out, but this doesn’t help everyone. If you can’t find ways to de-stress or remove yourself from stressful situation or people, try talking to someone who understands your situation and can offer advice. This can be a tremendous relief for most people.
Getting some regular exercise, making time for fun and games, getting plenty of sleep and eating a healthy diet will better equip your body to deal with stressful situations.
You might want to consider taking some adaptogen herbs, such as ashwagandha, to give your body a bit of an upper edge on stress.
Chronic stress is absolutely exhausting for the mind and body. Find ways to lower your stress levels and enjoy things that reduce or eliminate your stress, whatever those things might be for you.