Is stress actually dangerous? Numerous studies have confirmed that stress really does have the potential to be hazardous to your health. The mental and emotional impact of chronic stress can be debilitating; and the physical symptoms can be harmful, even life-threatening. Chronic stress symptoms include irritability, insomnia, appetite changes, muscle tension, frequent colds or flu, cold sores, bladder infections, hypertension and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Stress means different things to different people. A life struggle that might be “taken in stride” by one person could be a significant challenge for someone else. A lot depends on genetics, environmental factors, age, gender and overall health.
Left unchecked, chronic stress can wreak havoc on your body’s immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to serious health maladies including heart disease, diabetes and immune system dysfunction.
Chronic stress triggers the consistent release of cortisol, a hormone associated with the “flight or fight syndrome” that tells the body to defend itself. For most people, cortisol levels return to normal after a stressful situation is resolved, but people with chronic stress have consistently high cortisol levels that put their health at risk.
Many people struggle with how to cope with stress symptoms such as loss of appetite or muscle tension. There are several prescription drugs on the market that claim to treat stress-related problems, but they come with potentially dangerous side effects. Your best option is to seek out natural ways to deal with chronic stress.
MINDFULNESS MEDITATION: This type of meditation requires you to focus your complete attention on each breath as it flows in and out. When you focus on each breath you are able to deal with your thoughts as they occur and gradually let go of the ones that trouble you. The conscious breathing techniques used in meditation nurture and calm the body, mind and spirit.
EXERCISE: Regular exercise is a great stress-buster. Physical activity causes your body to release endorphins, the “feel good” hormone. Learn some basic yoga to teach your body to let go of the grip of stress in your life. Tai chi also helps to reduce cortisol and increase a sense of calm and balance.
ENJOY A HOBBY: Find an activity that you enjoy that requires your total focus. Paint, write, dance, listen to music or join a book club. Immersing yourself in something you love encourages you to shift your mind away from stressful thoughts.
TALK IT OUT: If you can’t shake chronic stress by yourself consider talking to a qualified counselor. A holistic health practitioner could help steer you toward a counselor who could offer a fresh perspective on your situation, and provide you with an outlet for your feelings.