Is Stress Making You Sick?

Categories: Executive Health

Having a busy life can be very fulfilling, but can also be very stressful. Work, family, finances and health issues can all cause us to feel overwhelmed and stressed. For many people, living with stress is so common that it can become a way of life. But, did you know that being stressed can actually make you ill? Very often a visit to the doctor may be for symptoms or illnesses that are actually a result of stress. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, two-thirds of office visits to family doctors are for stress-related symptoms.

If you frequently find yourself feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, it’s time to take action and bring your nervous system (the engine for stress) back into balance. Learning how to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and learning ways to reduce it, can greatly improve your overall health.

Stress in small doses can help you to perform under pressure and help you to do your best. But, if you are constantly stressed, your mind and body will pay the price. Studies have shown that ongoing emotional stress can lead to a significant increase in cardiovascular disease, ultimately resulting in a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Gastrointestinal disease, weakened immune system, muscle tension, headaches, low fertility, erectile dysfunction, pregnancy complications can all be directly related to stress. Emotional stress can also impact your healthy behaviors. It can often cause increases in food intake, cravings for foods high in fat, salt and sugar, alcohol consumption and prescription drug use. If you are stressed you may even find that your once healthy libido and usual desire to exercise can often be diminished as well.

Why does this happen?

When you perceive a threat, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones awaken your body and prepare it for emergency action. Your heart will pound faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time and enhance your focus – preparing you to either fight or flee. When the stressor is then gone, often so are the hormones. When this level remains constant or very frequent your body then doesn’t have time to recover and the physical damage begins.

What is the answer?
While it can take time to implement how to better deal with and avoid stress, the top two things you can do today that will change your life forever are to:

  1. Learn to use stress coping mechanisms
  2. Learn to use a tool that can help you recover or avoid stress

Some of the stress coping mechanisms that will help you to find relief are things such as:

Lean on your support network

A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against life’s stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.

Understand your sense of control

If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, it’s easier to take stress in stride. People who are vulnerable to stress tend to feel like things are out of their control. Realistically there is very little that we can actually control in our lives. Recognizing this and “lightening up” can truly change your life.

Renew your attitude and outlook
Stress-hardy people have an optimistic attitude. They tend to embrace challenges, have a strong sense of humor, accept that change is a part of life, and believe in a higher power or purpose.

Work on your ability to deal with your emotions
You’re extremely vulnerable to stress if you don’t know how to calm and soothe yourself when you’re feeling sad, angry or afraid. The ability to bring your emotions into balance helps you bounce back from adversity.

Your knowledge and preparation
The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope.

There are several tools that we have found that can also greatly reduce and improve your physical reaction to stress. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Committing to some sort of physical activity is a great way to get started; even just taking up more regular walking can significantly improve your stress levels. Stretching can also greatly help to relieve your muscle tension. Relaxation techniques such as regular meditation and deep breathing exercises can improve immunity, decrease blood pressure and ultimately help to reduce your risk for cardiovascular issues.

Stress is a physical, mental and emotional response to life’s changes and demands and can have a tremendous effect on your health. The first step to fixing your stress is to acknowledge that it could be a problem for you and that it is time to do something about it. Scheduling a physical exam as part of the Hoag Executive Health program will help you learn more about controlling your stress and making sure you are in peak physical condition with the help of a Wellness Report.

Please contact us at 855/209-3610 to learn more about the long term quality outcome of executive health.

Written by Leaann Garms