The Dangers of Excess Stress

Current uncertainty about the economy, government and health care is enough to send stress levels into overdrive. Under perceived threat, the brain’s hypothalamus prompts adrenal glands to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. The Mayo Clinic explains that this is the body’s normal, natural response. Adrenaline will cause your heart rate to rise and blood pressure to increase. Cortisol will elevate the sugar levels in your bloodstream while suppressing growth processes as well as reproductive and digestive systems.

After fight-or-flight situations pass, the body will go back to normal conditions. Blood pressure and heart rates return to baseline levels, and other systems resume usual functions.

However, long-term activation of the stress-response system is possible if stressors do not pass and remain constant. Perhaps your household needs two incomes but your spouse hasn’t been able to get a job for over a year, and your petulant child is becoming progressively volatile and irrational with age. The excess stress from troubling scenarios such as these can unsettle almost all bodily processes, increasing the risk of health problems including: anxiety, heart disease, weight gain, depression and memory impairment. It may also weaken the immune system.

As Healthline notes, chronic stress is dangerous and irreversibly harmful. So, no matter how much longer we must endure economic (Business Insider reports that 28% of people say they can't handle emergency expense of $10!), political and health care instability, we need to take care of ourselves. It’s essential to manage stress—it won’t go away if ignored.

Here are some suggestions for battling stress:

1. Calm your body by practicing slow, deep breathing exercises.

2. Listen to music, create art and engage in hobbies that you find relaxing.

3. Stay organized with your daily tasks so they don’t overwhelm you.

4. Avoid dependence on food, alcohol or nicotine as coping mechanisms.

5. Get sufficient amounts of sleep, typically seven to nine hours per night.

6. Indulge in humor. Laugh!

7. Cultivate close, supportive networks of friends and family.

8. If you still feel stressed after trying the methods above, consider speaking with a professional mental health expert.

When you feel like your life is spiraling out of control, we hope you found the above tips simple enough to help you find a little peace. Developing habits for managing stress can significantly impact mood, energy, outlook on life and your health. Good luck!

Co-authored with Shane Power, President of Watertree Health, where Lisa works in communication and business development.

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