It’s no secret that stress isn’t good for you, but we often do not understand the mechanisms of action. How exactly does stress hurt you, and how can you realistically avoid it in your busy life? Here are a few answers, along with some realistic tips.

What Is Stress?

The CDC defines stress as a response to one of two things: anxiety or feeling threatened. When you experience either of these, you respond with the symptoms of stress. There are two “types” of stress – positive stress and negative stress. Positive stress comes from experiences that are ultimately good, such as getting a promotion or having a baby. Negative stress comes from unwelcome experiences, such as illness or being overburdened with work.

How Stress Affects Wellness

Stress can negatively impact your overall wellness. Symptoms of stress can include emotional or physical symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, as well as physiological symptoms, such as increased levels of cortisol, the hormone your body produces in response to stress. Too much exposure to cortisol can weaken your immune system, making you vulnerable to infections. Long term excessive cortisol exposure can also make you susceptible to osteoporosis (weakening of the bones), inhibit wound healing, and affect long-term memory.

How to Reduce Stress

There are several quick and easy ways you can realistically reduce stress and thereby the negative impact on your health.

Self-Care

You cannot adequately take care of others without first taking care of yourself. This can be as simple as setting aside half an hour for a massage, taking a long bath or decompressing with a movie. Self-care doesn’t have to be extravagant; it just has to be something that makes you feel relaxed and grounded.

Let Go

Holding on to stressors you can do nothing about can have serious consequences to your health. Take time to discern which struggles you can actually do something about, and refuse to dedicate emotional energy to the things you have no control over.

Accept Help

You don’t have to do it all. Ask a loved one to help with part of your to-do list, let your boss know if you’re overwhelmed by your workload, and talk about your stressors with your partner or a friend. Those around you often want to help more than you realize.

You can change your behavior in small but important ways to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Taking steps toward self-care and building a support network can make a huge impact on your overall stress levels.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/coping_with_stress_tips.html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022399905002163

http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/1992/11000/Consistent_sex_differences_in_cortisol_responses.4.aspx

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-3083.1982.tb00618.x/abstract

http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/endo-114-2-477

http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(03)00144-6/abstract

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v3/n4/full/nn0400_313.html