Here in America, stress comes at people from many different directions. Between worrying about politics, finances, relationships, health, and so many other serious concerns, the average citizen carries a pretty heavy burden. According to the APA Stress in America Survey, many people believe that 2017 was one of the lowest points in American history in terms of worry and constant stress.
Dealing with constant stressors isn't just an unpleasant experience; it's a potentially life-threatening one. The human body isn't hard-wired to react to stressful situations 24/7, which means it takes a beating just as much as your mind does. If you feel that you're consistently stressed by events in your life, here are some of the potentially dangerous side effects you might be exposed to without even realizing:
- Higher risks of hypertension, heart attacks, and strokes. Because constant stress can increase your heart rate and levels of stress hormones, as well as your blood pressure, it can also cause serious heart and blood vessel problems.
- Heightened chances of developing type-2 diabetes. Although your weight also plays a significant role, people who are stressed often have trouble balancing their blood sugar levels, which can lead to diabetes in the future, especially in men.
- A weakened immune system. In a sense, chronic stress wears on your immune system until it is too damaged to properly protect your body from outside invaders. That means people who are consistently stressed tend to get sick more often and are at a higher risk of contracting dangerous diseases.
- Sleep deprivation. You don't need science to tell you that you sleep poorly when your mind is racing or your body is tense. Less sleep on a frequent basis can lead to trouble with your weight, irritability, heart disease, and plenty of other nasty side effects.
- Increased feelings of depression. In many cases, chronic stress and depression seem to go hand-in-hand. Stress can sometimes suppress the growth of neurons in your hippocampus, which in turn can trigger the onset of serious depression.
- Permanent changes in your brain. Neuroscientists have recently found that chronic stress can cause changes in the structure of your brain, which might affect your anxiety levels and happiness for the rest of your life.
Now for the silver lining: many of these issues are preventable if you start working to combat the stressors in your life and lower your cortisol levels as much as possible. For recommendations on how to manage your chronic stress, check out this article by Psychology Today, which discusses key coping mechanisms that anyone can use.
Do you have effective ways to deal with stress on a daily basis? Leave suggestions for others in the comments below!