Stress – Just hearing this word can evoke negative feelings and emotions!

Stress in and of itself isn’t necessarily an unhealthy thing, after all, without our ancestors reacting to threats via a “fight or flight” instinct, we wouldn’t even be here.

Chronic stress is the real enemy.

When it comes to learning that requires the use of memory, chronic stress is a killer. It has devastating effects on both learning and memory with children being particularly affected.

Stress triggers negative reactions in the immune system and contributes to infections. Inflammation is linked to a host of health problems and diseases — everything from diabetes to cancer, asthma, and heart disease.

Previous studies demonstrate that the hippocampus (the memory center of the brain) experiences a shrinkage of 8 percent – as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Not only does chronic stress affect the way we feel and act, it also affects the way we look! Many physiological processes are negatively affected and some are actually shut down by the stress response. Breathing and heart rate increase, glucose is released (for instant energy) and adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) flood the body.

Lack of blood flow to the skin, immune system functions, digestion, growth and reproduction is suspended.

This lack of blood flow to the skin affects how well we age.

But worse than the loss of blood flow is how chronic stress affects the aging of the brain.

Toxins, poor diet, lack of exercise or social connections, and repetitive routines contribute to the loss of brain cells as we age, but chronic stress exacerbates the problem. It actually kills brain cells.

Weight gain can result from chronic stress because digestion decreases during the stress response, leading to a variety of digestive disorders. The result can be constipation, cramping, and diarrhea.

It is very clear that if we are to age gracefully and enjoy stellar health, chronic stress must be managed.

Here’s some help with stress relief:

1. Increase social engagement. Simply sharing your daily problems with others is a great way to reduce the volume of your problems and put them into perspective. Once you realize that you’re not the only one who has to deal with crazy situations and people, you’ll feel so much better about a lot more in your life.

2. Do more physical activity. Again, exercise comes to the rescue. Adding moderately intense physical activity to your life is a great way to lower the level of cortisol circulating in your body and reduce stress.

3. Watch shows that make you laugh. It is very difficult to laugh and also be nervous at the same time.

4. Get more sleep. Lack of sleep is a great way to magnify life’s little stresses and make them seem unbearable. If you’re sleep-deprived, find ways to hit the pillow sooner. A great night’s sleep can make a huge difference in your outlook on life.

5. Eat better. It may seem strange to hear nutrition mentioned when it comes to reducing stress. But one consequence of high stress is that your body prioritizes the production of cortisol over the synthesis of other important hormones that your body needs to properly regulate itself.

It’s time to take control of your life and control your stress.

Categories: Adult health


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