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Why Stress is Harmful (Even though it’s Inevitable Right Now) and What to do to Beat It

Why Stress is Harmful

With all that’s going on in today’s world, there is no doubt that stress has crept into your life. Unfortunately, even if it is inevitable, stress is harmful to your wellbeing. Stress is more than just a feeling of being overwhelmed by life. In actuality, it is a biological reaction to stimuli that can take a toll on your health. Read on for more about why stress is harmful and how to fight its effects even in the most difficult times.

Why Stress if Harmful

Whenever you become stressed, your body responds with a combination of “fight or flight” reactions:

  • Muscles become tense
  • Blood pressure rises
  • Heart rate increase
  • Breathing quickens with possible hyperventilating
  • Digestion changes
  • Glucose is released for added energy
  • Sweating occurs


These reactions are orchestrated by hormones in the body (notably cortisol, adrenaline, and epinephrine) that can be helpful in the case of an immediate threat to your body. Unfortunately, people often face more long-term stressors like financial hardships, strained personal relationships, difficulties in the workplace, or concerns about national current events. Long lasting or chronic stress directly affects the body’s biological systems.

Chronic Stress and the Body

For some people, chronic stress may simply be uncomfortable and energy-draining. However, it can cause life-threatening health conditions or possibly even sudden death. If the above reactions occur frequently or for an extended period of time, they can wreak havoc on your body. Here are a few health conditions that may occur once stress has reached an unhealthy level:

  • Asthma
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased immunity
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Diabetes

How to Beat Inevitable Stress

In order to manage your chronic stress, try to determine what’s causing it. From personal issues to national events, you may be able to come up with a long list. Unfortunately, you may not be able to alter your current situation. Instead, try one of these proven methods to cope with your stress.

Exercise Frequently

Just about all types of exercise releases endorphins. These “feel good hormones” help boost your mood, promote a sense of well-being, and increase positivity. Try any activity to get your body moving, from a stroll around the block to dancing in your living room. You may even consider beginning a yoga practice. Yoga combines physical exercise with meditation and conscious breathing to enhance stress-fighting properties.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves focusing on your present situation and emotional state without making judgements. Research shows that being mindful lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. For older adults in particular, mindfulness can help fight dementia and anxiety. Begin by simply paying attention to the small things in your life. For example, take time each day to focus on your breathing. Deep breathing can help manage stress by slowing your heartbeat and stabilizing blood pressure. Or, you can take advantage of the array of guided meditations available online.

Sleep Well

The benefits of a good night’s sleep are far-reaching. REM sleep in particular suppresses the production of the stress hormone norepinephrine. This type of sleep occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and is important to processing the events of our lives. Additionally, lack of sleep can lead to increased levels of cortisol and therefore increased stress levels. Make sleep, both quantity and quality, a priority in your life.

Focus on Your Diet

A balanced diet can keep the pounds off but can also fight stress. Starchy, high fiber foods like beans, sweet potatoes and oatmeal assist in the release of serotonin. Fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants also help the body cope with chronic stress by boosting the immune system. Lastly, don’t forget to drink water. Every part of your body needs water to function, and dehydration is another trigger for the release of cortisol.

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Laugh More

There is quite a bit of truth to the statement that “laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter is yet another way to release endorphins and therefore boost moods and promotes relaxation. Additionally, laughing increases oxygen intake and stimulates muscles, organs, and the circulatory system. So, find what makes you laugh: your favorite sitcom, a comedy show, or a chat with your hilarious best friend. No matter the activity, make time for frequent laughter in your life for an overall health boost.

Speak with a Professional

While the previously listed tips can help you manage stress, sometimes life’s pressures become too much to bear. If your stress is affecting your quality of life, seek out a licensed mental health professional. A therapist can develop an individualized plan to help manage your stress.

Don’t Let Stress Rule Your Life

Stress is an inevitable part of many people’s lives right now. Research shows that chronic stress can have detrimental effects on your health. Fortunately, worry and fear don’t have to rule your life. Instead, take steps today to beat the physical and psychological burdens of stress.




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