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Can You Get Sick From Stress?

woman at home hand on headWe all have problems, and it’s natural to worry or feel anxious once in a while. But what happens when that stress becomes more frequent? Worrying, stress, and wading in negative emotions can actually wreak havoc on your body in time, and it doesn’t have to take long before your body feels the effects. Here’s how you can get sick from stress – and how you can stop it in its tracks!

Helpful vs. Harmful Stress

If you’re feeling frazzled and stressed out, you’re not alone. According to Gallup’s 2019 Global Emotional Report, about 55% of adults in the United States shared that they experienced stress during “a lot of the day” in 2018, compared with only 35% worldwide. While it’s virtually impossible to live without anxiety or stress, too much of it can damage both your mind and body.

Anxiety can be helpful – it can tell us if danger is around the corner and prompt us to act. For example, if you’ve suddenly become inundated with tasks at work, stress may motivate you to sort out your priorities by making a to-do list. However, spending more time fretting than taking action can lead to chronic stress, which can negatively alter your immune system’s response.

You have one major hormone to thank for this: cortisol.

The Role of Cortisol

You’ve probably heard of cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone, but do you know how it functions in the body? When we become physically stressed (say, through a killer workout) or emotionally stressed (perhaps when you’re stuck in a traffic jam on the way to work), your sympathetic nervous system activates and you enter the fight-or-flight response. Meanwhile, your body begins increasing its production of glucocorticoids – steroidal hormones like cortisol that usually help regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation.

Unfortunately, the immune system doesn’t handle stress too well, especially when it’s a more constant emotion. Because your body is busy producing potent cocktails of cortisol, adrenaline, dopamine, and norepinephrine, it becomes less vigilant in the fight against bacteria and viruses. Additionally, when stress is chronic, your cortisol levels remain elevated, which can lead to a wide array of health problems in time.

The Negative Impacts of Stress

Are you someone who tends to worry excessively? We have some bad news for you – the more you worry, the more likely you will develop short- or long-term health problems. While these lists are not exhaustive, here are some of the health issues you may face if you are stressed out all the time:

Short-term issues:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Acne outbreaks
  • Headaches
  • Colds
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Irritability
  • Hives
  • Thinning hair or hair loss

Long-term health concerns:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Weakened immune system
  • Cognitive changes and impaired learning
  • Loss of brain cells and damage to cell connections
  • Adrenal fatigue or adrenal failure
  • Heart disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Chronic gastrointestinal issues

Give Stress the Boot

Here’s the good news: you can avoid health problems by managing your stress in healthy ways! Take control and negate stress’s harmful impact with these suggestions:

  • Exercise. Shoot for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Working out is a great way to boost your mood, relieve tension, improve your sleep, and kick anxiety to the curb!
  • Eat well. It’s always important to fuel your body with whole, nutritious food, especially in times of sickness and stress. Stay away from processed food and eat a balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, and nuts.
  • Slow down and reset your focus. When you find yourself tensing up or feel your heart racing, take a step back and tune into your body. Diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can help you unclench your taut muscles and improve your breathing. Spending time meditating, praying, or doing yoga can also bring a sense of calm into your life.
  • Get a hobby. Spend time doing something you love every single day, even if it’s just for 20 minutes! Healthy hobbies like drawing or painting, gardening, knitting, cooking, or making music can help you combat stress.
  • Find support. You should always have someone to rely on in good and bad times. Surround yourself with people who love you – your significant other, your friends, and your family. Seeking professional mental help can also reduce your anxiety and lead toward long-term health improvements!
  • Practice gratitude. If you find yourself walking down a spiraling negative path, reverse those thoughts and focus on the good. Learn to let go of what you can’t change and focus on the present. Keeping a gratitude journal can also help!
  • Get plenty of rest. Quality sleep is crucial to help you feel refreshed every day. Aim to get at least 7 hours of uninterrupted shut-eye. If you’re struggling with sleep, make sure you’re practicing good sleep hygiene.

The Wellness Connection Can Help!

Stress is a part of everyday life, but you can take steps right now to help safeguard your health. If you’ve been feeling the symptoms of stress or just aren’t feeling like yourself, The Wellness Connection is here to help you. We can determine the underlying cause of your stress, show you why you’re not feeling well, and teach you what you can do about it. Call us at (636) 978-0970 to schedule your consultation! You can also take our FREE Online Health Evaluation right now!

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