What Does Stress Do to Your Body?
When you are stressed, the body's natural fight or flight response causes your brain to signal your adrenal glands to release a variety of chemicals. High levels of adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol immediately affect your thoughts, body and behavior. As your heart begins to pound, your blood pressure begins to rise. You start to breath faster and, as your body tenses up, additional hormones are released to provide the energy needed to run away, defend yourself or attack. Not bad if you're being chased by a Saber-toothed tiger. Unfortunately, the brain has trouble distinguishing between everyday stress and a life-threatening event.
How Stress Affects Your Health
Keeping your stress level in check has multiple benefits. It helps you stay focused at work while delivering an important presentation or keeps you alert during a critical time. However, chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body, which can accelerate the aging process, upset your digestive tract, shut down your immune system and lead to a host of health problems. It's hard to name a disease or medical condition that not aggravated by stress. If stress is allowed to continue, it can leave you feeling anxious, overwhelmed and fatigued. You may be driven to eat or might find it difficult to sleep as thoughts race through your mind. Left unchecked, stress can leave you frustrated, depressed or angry.
Tips for Managing Stress
Since it is virtually impossible to avoid every stressful situation in your life, it is crucial that you learn how to manage stress successfully. In fact, there's a lot that you can do rather than drink or eat yourself into a frenzy. Exercise or relaxation techniques can help control negative thoughts that can increase stress and anxiety. Eating a diet filled with fruits, fresh vegetables, healthy fats (especially omega-3 fatty acids) and high quality proteins can improve your stress tolerance. Taking your dog for a walk, talking to a friend, listening to music, attending a yoga class, participating in a sport, going for a bike ride or just engaging your senses can help to break the vicious cycle of daily stress.
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