Does Stress Make You Sick?
According to a recent survey taken by the U.S. Department of Labor, 75% of all Americans are constantly plagued by stress. In addition, according to researchers in Duke University, lack of control, high demands, and repetitive work lead to job stress, which can lead to health problems. What is stress and how can we manage it? Everyone feels stressed, someday or another. It is a myth that stress causes illness.
Myth #1: Stress is bad for us.
Reality: Stress can be helpful and healthful. For instance, managed stress can help us with challenges in motivating us to improve the productivity and excitement in our lives. On the other hand, distress is bad. Distress or mismanaged stress may cause illness by damaging the immune system over time. Minor symptoms of stress, such as headaches or constant tension in your body, are early warning signs telling you that you need to do a better job of managing your stress.
Remember, pain is your friend. It's your body's natural way of telling you something is wrong and warning you to pay attention to it.
Myth #2: Stress causes cancer.
Reality: There is no conclusive evidence that demonstrates that stressful life events cause cancer. According to the World Health Organization, many cancers have strong genetic basis with other culprits being the causes as well, such as environmental pollution, our diets and our life styles, etc.
Myth #3: Stress causes the common cold.
Reality: Over 50,000 viruses can cause symptoms of the common cold. Stress can make symptoms worse.
Stress doesn't cause the illness, but illness may become worse because of stress. You are not responsible for creating your own disease, but you are responsible for how you choose to live and how you cope with situations so as to prevent illness.
Myth #4: Stress causes allergies.
Reality: Undergoing stress may make you more sensitive to allergens, but your allergies are a genetic heritage and are NOT because of STRESS! Again, stress can make symptoms more intense or last longer. For example, if you don't get enough sleep because you are stressed, your allergy symptoms may feel worse.
Myth #5: Stress creates hypertension.
Reality: High blood pressure (HBP) can be situational, meaning that the increase of blood pressure depends on circumstances. Blood pressure shifts are correlated with many factors: emotional responses to stressors, changes in the environment, intake of stimulants, weight gain, strenuous exercise, emotional conflicts, and other demands on your body. For instance, carrying a heavy box up four flights of stairs may temporarily increase your blood pressure.
Hypertension may be caused by a genetic predisposition that creates systemic changes which may be controlled with life style changes, diet, exercise, stress reduction techniques (i.e. yoga, therapy, the right nutrition, etc.), and medicine.
Myth #6: Stress causes heart attacks and/or heart disease.
Reality: Stressful events may trigger a coronary event, but to have a heart attack requires underlying vascular disease or physiological disorder or defect. Vascular disease may be created by some genetic disposition interacting with high fat diets, lack of exercise, and life styles.
Chronic stress, meaning stress over time, can create damage to our bodies, such as increasing cholesterol, clogging arteries, and other conditions which in turn may cause a coronary event, stroke, or other severe result. People who are chronically distressed usually have other harmful habits that add to damaging their bodies which in turn can create coronary problems.
Myth #7: Exercise will control stress!
Reality: It depends on how it's done. Exercise is healthy and an important part of our life. Just don't stress yourself out about it. Competition is OKAY as long as it's enjoyed and seen in a perspective. When competition is taken too seriously, people may loose control, becoming distressed. Intensifying yourself during your work out may be harmful because you might actually increase your stress. Create a moderate exercise routine in which you can exercise and release your stress at the same time. Anything done to an extreme is often harmful.
What is the difference between stress and anxiety?
Anxiety reactions to stress often turn stress into distress. Symptoms of stress and anxiety overlap and are often confusing to the individual. People who are stressed do not necessarily have anxiety, however, people who have anxiety also have stress.
Little changes to feel a lot better !
Here are some solutions for your stress:
1. Take matters into your own hands. Since we can control the way we think, when feeling stressed, we may want to calm down and relax. Obviously, this is easier said than done. Here's a simple and easy way to begin. Take a couple of minutes to go through some breathing techniques:
Inhale, counting1, 2, 3
Hold it, counting 1, 2
Exhale, counting 1, 2, 3
Repeat this a few times.
Now, don't you feel better?
*Suggestion: Use this a few times a day. Try using it when you're driving, sitting for a while, before you eat, before you go to sleep, or whenever you have a few moments. Particularly, remember to use it when you feel stressed.
2. Life without stress...there isn't one! Think positive thoughts ("My in-laws are coming for a visit, but they are here for only a week!). Have a positive mental outlook because it's free. What positive thinking can you substitute when you're feeling stressed? Think these positive thoughts while doing deep breathing. Examples: Daydream about something you're looking forward to. Imagine something beautiful! Imagine being with someone you love.
3. Be Healthy, Be Less Stressed! Try to remove yourself from self-destructive habits, like smoking. What are you going to substitute instead? Life offers many positive options for healthy living. What fits for you? Perhaps you might consider energizing yourself with some healthy food alternatives, vitamins, mineral supplements, or herbal supplements.
4. Work that Stress! Increase your physical activities (walk to the corner store instead of taking your car), but don't intensify them. Remember, the more relaxing the activities, the less stress will impact your health. And finally, surround yourself with friends and family. We can't choose our family, but having supportive friends is something we can enjoy.