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December 21, 2016 • Family Medicine
Ever notice how you always seem to get sick right after a major life event like a new job or a big trip? The timing is always so bad. For many of us, we just chalk this up to the usual funky bits of karma that life throws our way and move right along.
As it turns out, though, we’re often ignoring proven medical science when we shrug these illnesses off as coincidence. Some want to consider it a myth, but there’s real evidence that stress can affect health in tangible ways that can even be tracked and noted. Between 75 percent and 90 percent of all visits to the doctor are for issues related to stress, and nearly half of all healthy adults see a negative health effect from stress at some point in their lives.
What are some of the things stress can affect, and what are some ways you limit stress to help make yourself more healthy? Let’s find out.
Stress can also affect your mood and general behavior, but stress-related conditions can affect your body in a number of areas. Stress can lower the immune system’s responses through hormones released as part of the body’s stress response, and many different things can happen as a result.
Some of the most common results of stress on the body can include:
You may not know it as it’s happening, even if someone tells you, but stress can cause you to behave differently than you would normally. Sometimes this can be infused with exhaustion, although sometimes that very same exhaustion is caused by stress in the first place.
Some of the most common behaviors which may change:
Other people may not (necessarily) see it all the time, but your mood is just as important as your behavior and body. Stress can make you feel angry or sad at times when you’d never normally feel that way, and it can cause major losses in focus for people with lots of responsibilities to keep track of.
Stress is a major trigger for people with anxiety problems, and the two can combine to create a vicious cycle where each makes the other worse. People with high levels of stress might have a quicker trigger for frustration, or become irritable much more easily.
At its very worst, stress can contribute to life-altering conditions, such as:
Staying away from major stress is easier said than done, but there are some tactics you can look into. These vary from person to person.
The key is increasing relaxation, so whatever helps you relax could work well. Regular exercise is never bad, and some people combine this with meditation during activities like yoga or pilates. Others just read a book or watch their favorite television program, and others might enjoy the outdoors to escape from daily life.
Just as important here is eliminating as many of the unnecessary causes of your body’s stress as you can. Certain bouts of stress can’t be avoided, but you can identify the high-stress parts of your life that you can afford to cut out. For some people this might be a relationship with a volatile friend or family member, where for others it’s activities like managing a checkbook or watching television right before bed. Only you can identify these areas for yourself, so be as honest with yourself as possible.
“Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987?pg=1
“The Effects of Stress on Your Body.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/effects-of-stress-on-your-body
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.