Why Stress Affects Your Health

Relaxation and recovery combat both stress and health problems.

Stress is an individual's response to a new challenge, whether psychological or physical. May is Mental Health Month, so let's learn why lowering stress is essential to your health.

How does stress manifest itself?
When a stressful event or condition occurs, the brain releases hormones like adrenaline to help you cope. These hormones trigger the body's various response systems to enhance alertness and your ability to "fight or flight" with efficiency and speed. Your body acts this way even if the event is not life-threatening, such as slow traffic before an important meeting.

What are the symptoms of stress?
Stress results in two kinds of symptoms: short term and long term. Short-term symptoms of stress include, among others:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Contracted muscles
  • Dilated pupils
  • Heightened senses

When you experience these short-term symptoms consistently over time without a pause to relax and recover, you can develop health problems such as:

  • A weakened immune system
  • Chronic headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Accelerated aging

It's important to note that many other factors can cause the conditions on the list above. Visit your physician to determine whether or not stress is the reason for poor health.

How can I protect my body from stress?
Depending on how you experience stress as an individual, you may benefit from techniques that combat stress. For example:

  • Self awareness: noting your attitude and striving to change it puts you in control of your outlook.
  • Seeking comfort: forming a support network of like-minded people reduces loneliness and consulting with a therapist fosters methods for dealing with stress.
  • Exercise: regular workouts release endorphins and improve overall fitness, decreasing your risk of developing depression.
  • Relaxation techniques: meditation, breathing exercises or yoga are all time-tested methods for reducing stress.

Visit your physician to determine how stress may affect your body and for ways to manage stress. Call Medical Center Arlington with questions or for a physician referral by dialing 1-855-868-6262.

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