Man-looking-relaxedRunning late for work. Kids arguing in the back seat. Forgot to pay your credit card bill. All common causes of stress. Just reading them invokes a negative reaction.

Events that stress us out are actually meant to signal us to make a change or adjust to whatever is happening. But they’re not always just in our environment. Sometimes they’re internal.

How we mentally, physically or emotionally react to something puts stress on our bodies. And all of that stress is adding up to poor health for many Americans.

Stress is meant to invoke a positive change and avoid danger. But when there’s no relief between episodes, stress develops into distress – a negative stress reaction.

Distress is what leads to physical symptoms, including:

  • Upset stomach
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Poor concentration
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Slow healing
  • Eczema
  • Muscle aches
  • Depression
  • Infertility
  • Chest pain
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches

Distress, sometimes called chronic stress, can also lead some to substance abuse to deal with the situation. But instead of actually relieving the stress, the substances – alcohol, tobacco or drugs – exacerbate the problem, making it worse. Consider the following statistics:

  • 43% of all adults suffer from poor health due to stress
  • Between 75-90% of all doctor visits are for stress related ailments
  • Stress costs American industries more than $300 billion annually

But quickly cutting out stress can also have a negative effect on health.

According to research by Marc Schoen, PhD, assistant professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, prostaglandins – a hormone-like substance released along with other hormones – has been linked to many diseases. Stress hormones put the body on alert, but when they’re suddenly removed – like when you go on vacation after finishing a stressful project or ending a stressful exam period – you can get suddenly become ill.

Schoen suggested relaxing several times per day for just a few minutes to boost the immune system. Also stimulating the brain with challenging activities, such as puzzles or board games, helps the body slowly adjust after a stressful episode.

If reading this made you wonder if your medical conditions might be related to stress, consider seeing your doctor.

Share this article with families and friends who might benefit from learning about the health effects of stress.


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