You might think that chronic stress is just a byproduct of living in today’s fast-paced society, and for the vast majority of people, that’s undoubtedly true. When you have a million and one things to do and only 24 hours in the day, it often seems as though there’s simply not enough time or energy to accomplish everything on your list.
Between family obligations, work deadlines, long commutes and society’s highly competitive nature, it’s exceedingly easy to get wrapped up in the craziness and stress of it all. If you suffer from persistent stress, it’s time to get it under control for good. Why? Because stress is more damaging to your health than you might realize. How? Take a look.
Stress Compromises Your Immune System
Your immune system regulates the health of your entire body. From fighting pathogens to regulating your body’s production of red and white blood cells, the immune system is what protects you from falling victim to the billions of microscopic, harmful organisms surrounding you every day of your life. Research has demonstrated that when you’re overly stressed this critical protective system takes a hit.
Stress suppresses your immune system’s production of lymphocytes, also known as white blood cells, which function to engulf and dispose of harmful foreign invaders. As lymphocyte production decreases, you become more susceptible to common illnesses and allergy symptoms.
Your risk of developing more serious chronic conditions such as heart attack and stroke also increases. On top of that, stress often drives sufferers to cope by using substances like tobacco and alcohol, both of which compound the issue by further depressing immune system response.
Causes Dangerous Behavior
When you’re under substantial stress, your likelihood of practicing risky behaviors increases significantly. Even something as simple as road rage can be incredibly dangerous. As previously mentioned, coping mechanisms like alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs encourage unhealthy behaviors that are common among individuals who suffer from unrelenting stress.
Substance use can impair your ability to make sound decisions and also drive you to commit risky acts such as driving under the influence. Additionally, stress generates a unique cognitive response that makes you more irritable and prone to questionable or aggressive behavior. Moreover, stress often leads to inadequate sleep, which further impairs your decision-making skills.
Regulates Hormone Secretion
Under chronic or acute stress, your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol drastically increases. Why does that matter? Cortisol helps regulate your body’s “fight or flight” response, and when levels of this stress hormone are high, both your body and mind are in a constant state of overstimulation.
This relentless overstimulation can affect blood sugar regulation, metabolism functioning, and memory formation. High cortisol levels may also lead to increased systemic inflammation, which puts you at higher risk for weight gain and developing chronic diseases.
There’s no doubt about it. Stress is an incredibly damaging and debilitating force in a person’s day-to-day life. If you find yourself constantly stressed, try implementing small, daily changes that can help mitigate your body’s stress response.
Incorporating healthy dietary choices, regular physical activity and mindfulness practices can help you overcome the damaging effects of your daily stressors.