Why Stress is One of Your Worst Enemies and What You Can Do About it TODAY

August 17, 2015   |   7 Comments   |   94

Being a human being means being subjected to stress from time to time. We have been hardwired to deal with stress from the very beginning of our existence. But stress millions of years ago is very different from modern day stress. Our prehistoric stress was a result of being chased by a very large animal with very large teeth. These periods of stress were short-term.

Our bodies are actually well adapted to deal with short-term stress. But when our stress levels remain high for an extended period of time because of too much work, bad relationships, and financial obligations… we become at risk of developing some serious health concerns that affect our entire body.


You’ve probably heard by now that stress causes the body to secrete cortisol which can lead to weight gain, but that’s not all it does. Cortisol sends a message to your liver demanding that it produce more blood sugar to give you an instant rush of energy so you can run from the big thing that’s chasing you.

But when there is nothing to run from except a mound of bills that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and you’re stressed about those bills day after day after day, then your liver is constantly being called upon to release more and more glucose. Obviously consistently high levels of glucose put you at risk for type 2 diabetes. So even if you eat fairly well but have been under a lot of stress for a long time, you may become diabetic.

Heart Health

Momentary stress, like when you have to give a speech, will make your heart beat faster and your blood pressure rise. Long-term stress, like when you bring your newborn home and spend the next five years making very sure you keep him or her alive, can cause your arteries to narrow and elevate your bad cholesterol levels. This in turn puts you at a much greater risk for heart disease and stroke.

Reproductive Health

Stress can have catastrophic effects on men’s health – from a loss of libido to erectile dysfunction, and even lower sperm count!

Stress can also wreak havoc on a woman’s menstrual cycles. Cycles can become more painful, erratic, or stop all together. High levels of stress can produce bacterial vaginosis and, should the stress occur during pregnancy, can increase the risk of the baby developing asthma and allergies later in life.

A Weakened Immune System

Short-term stress can actually be beneficial, giving your immune system a boost and helping to fight off infections. But long-term stress compromises your immune health and makes you more susceptible to infections and slows wound healing. It can lead to acne and worsen skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Memory Loss and Depression

Besides cortisol, other hormones such as adrenaline are released in the “fight or flight” response. When persistently high levels of cortisol and adrenaline are in the blood, it can lead to impaired memory and learning as well as depression.

Upper Respiratory Infections

When you’ve experienced high levels of stress you’ve no doubt recognized that your breathing becomes faster. You may even feel short of breath or have begun to hyperventilate. When this happens over a long period of time, you become much more susceptible to upper-respiratory infections.

A Compromised Digestive System

Long-term stress can do a real number on your digestive system, causing indigestion, nausea and gas. It may also stimulate the muscles in your intestines causing cramps, diarrhea or constipation. Should these symptoms persist your risk increases for irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and severe heartburn.

Aches and Pains

When we’re stressed our muscles tense so we can deal with whatever danger threatens us. Over time this tension leads to headaches and neck and back pain. Chronic stress may also increase your likelihood of developing osteoporosis.

Well, that’s the bad news. The good news is there are things you can do to combat stress and maintain good health.


Okay, sure, it sounds easier to do than it sometimes is. After all, if you could relax you wouldn’t be stressed, right? But there are some very simple things you can do, no matter what is going on in your life causing you stress, that will help to minimize if not alleviate it .

There are gentle exercises like tai chi and yoga that are incredibly effective at slowing respiration, lowering blood pressure, and releasing stored tension in our muscles. Heck, even taking a walk on the beach or around your neighborhood has the ability to do the same thing.

In fact, there was a very interesting study done in 2008 by a couple of University of Michigan researchers who looked at the restorative effects on cognition by walking, either in a natural or urban environment. The cognitive function they focused on was voluntary attention. Participants first performed a half hour task that required their full attention and which, after not much time, became fatigued. They then spent 50 minutes walking, either in a city or a large park. When they got back they retook the test and those participants who walked in the park performed better overall than those who walked in the city. The moral of the story? Walking is great for our health, but if you can walk somewhere pretty, it’s even more beneficial.

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Stress quite literally kills us by killing our neurons and making it incredibly difficult for our bodies to make new ones. But, studies have shown that aerobic exercise helps us create new neurons and connections. In general, exercise is a great way to promote brain health and counteract the effects of stress. Another benefit of exercise is that it helps us sleep better, and sleep cycles are usually disturbed by stress.

Exercise also boosts the production of those “feel-good” chemicals endorphins, which helps battle depression often brought on by chronic stress.

Be More Social

Often when we feel stressed we also feel isolated and alone. It’s important during these times to reach out to friends and family and pets, and even cultivate a new network of friends that share your interests. Studies have shown that satisfying relationships are crucial to both our mental and physical health.

Find Reasons to Laugh

Every person intuitively knows that laughing simply feels good and more and more research has shown it really is a medicine, and one of the best ones. Fighting has an ability to fight off stress. In 2002, researcher Mary Bennet and her colleagues showed two videos to a group of adult women who, like most people, had various levels of stress in their lives at the time.

One of the videos was a tourism video and the other was a funny video (most likely of cats or people falling down – of course that is only our own speculation). It was the funny video that had the women report decreased levels of stress.

Even more interesting, a 2004 neuroimaging study showed that self-generated emotions such as happiness or sadness activated the exact same areas of the brain as “real” emotions. They also found that imagined laughter was successful at reducing sadness and imagined crying was equally successful at reducing happiness.

What does this tell us? Emotions are powerful and so is your mind. If you’re feeling stressed at work imagine your favorite part from a funny movie or imagine the last time you laughed really hard. You should experience a decrease in your stress levels.

Not many of us will get through life without experiencing some level of stress at some time or other. And while it’s normal, it’s just not healthy. So remember to follow these tips to manage your stress and maintain good health.

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  1. Richard Jacobs

    September 10, 2017 Reply

    Heartened by the many comments of reliance on our God ! He is control. We can not understand His works because as humans we don't get anywhere near His level !---- I read all of the sad experiences of folks that have written. I have also had my share of surgeries, complications, dismay, excruciating pain, disappointments etc----- But I also have been blessed in that I had Christian parents and married a Christian girl 61 years ago and we are still together after 5 children---- She has suffered from Parkinson's for 17 years and has just been admitted to the Hospice program because of so many related problems----- Stress has been a constant companion for many years as I have been primary caregiver and still am---- And we are blessed as God is in our lives ! Do all you can to fight the everyday stress. God will hear you, not make your life a bed of roses --Please --- Talk to Him.

  2. Jeannie

    July 22, 2017 Reply

    I just located this article on how stress affects our health and mental health. As I read, I found myself relating to the symptoms listed.
    My wonderful husband of 45 years became an abusive alchoholic as well as a cheater. I said wonderful because he was all of those 45 years. Before the breakup, I had been caring for his parents and his emotionally ill sister in their home. Being elderly and in their final years with many health issues. It was after his Dad had to go into a long term health care facility. Then, when I wasn't looking, his Mom crawled out of her bed and fell. Her hip was broken so I was unable to properly care for her, so she had to be placed in a rehab elder home. She lived there for five years before he passing.
    After 11 months of every day clearing their 1 acre hoard, my the husband and I were there together working hard all day. Evidently he had been drinking all day when he got mad at me and physically assaulted me. There were seven events, once with a shotgun, after that. Each time he apologized stating that I didn't deserve that treatment.
    We talked about the fact he had a problem with alchohol which he denied. The bottom line was to be he would stay away intil he sought help. Well that worked for six weeks. But one evening he came home and began drinking and eventually over the evening he went into a rage. Over those six weeks, I began to find out about the life he had developed with another woman and this relationship had been going on during the 5 years I dedicated to care for his family.
    So to get to the level of stress I was under, after we broke up, was emmense and overwhelming. I suffered 2 heartattacks. My dr believed it was from all of the stress.
    I gained 40lbs, had 3 unsuccessful suicide attempts. Spent some time in a psych hospital. I have also began to suffer asthma attacks, bronchitis as well as insomnia and stomache/bowel and memory issues
    This all took place 4 1/2 years ago so am doing a lot better. However, I have another stress in that I am having to sue him for not following Court Orders in the divorce.
    So, a whole different set of stressors.
    The point to this sharing all of this with you is to say that all and perhaps more symptoms will manifest as a result of stress.
    I have begun a daily exercise regime . And take two 20 minute quiet meditation periods. One mantra I use is about not allowing another person to influence my serenity. He tried to distroy me and in those attempts, he has destroyed himself. Six months ago the girlfriend received a diagnosis of stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. Within 30 days she was gone. Sad for both but I see that as a sign of Karma working in ways we can't really understand.
    I hope my story helps someone. The take away is to never allow another person to control your emotions.
    If someone behaves badly or tries to make you feel bad about yourself. Just take a deep breath and feel your calm. Allow that person to have their own tantrum all by themselves. That won't work if you allow yourself into the battle zone.
    I wish you a healthy and serene life

  3. Ben Marsh

    July 21, 2017 Reply

    It is so inspiring to hear other folks relate their own challenges, and how they deal with them to the best of their ability.
    I myself, now in my 80's, have been remarkably fortunate with children, grand children, and great grandchildren.
    Daily routines, are difficult to establish, and also, at times, to maintain. Perhaps an old English saying to
    'keep a stiff upper lip', helps to ride over some of the rough spots. In these days, it's costly to afford healthy food all the time, but
    I do my best. Daily exercise, is to keep moving, with some years of Tai Chi practice, plus dog walks. Although present day medical
    services help to maintain health, I'm convinced that their are many benefits in natural healing methods, and in alternative therapies. It is unfortunate, and to our detriment, that our medical practices have not embraced methods of proven benefit
    through the experience of many who have found them helpful.
    Handling stressful events, is never easy. Listening to 'good' music, some Qigong routines, and a little meditation, plus having trusted friends with whom we can share our stories, help to keep a more or less equitable balance. As for leaving something for the grand children and other close family members who will flourish in the years, and generations ahead, a few words of what good (and not-so-good!) fortune has been my experience, and a small collection of poetry I've found of interest from an early age, perhaps is all that will be of value. The more material possessions, and trinkets, will have a limited life, until they in their turn are discarded.
    I sympathize with others who have been less fortunate, and whenever possible, go out of my way to help as I'm able to, however,
    ultimately, we each have to deal with the hand we're dealt, and the lifestyle we have chosen for ourselves.
    I cannot close without mentioning how important a belief system is. Daily prayer is a key resource, and for those of us in the Christian Faith, our Saviour is our ultimate resource. I often think: 'May the Best be done for all concerned'
    Ultimately,our thoughts condition our lives, and to a greater or lesser extent, influence the lives of those around us.
    I wish each of you who may read this, every Good Fortune along your own path.

  4. Israel

    January 4, 2017 Reply

    This is a great article. I would like to share it with my wife as well.

  5. Ruby Ewing

    August 14, 2016 Reply

    I have been blest. I grew up in a Christ filled home with 5 other siblings during the depression years. Dad was a farmer and dad shared with the less fortunate things that we all worked at in his big garden. We didn't know we were poor. We had food on the table and mom cooked enough for families who had less. Dad was killed,a man didn't stop at intersection. All siblings married and Christ was also in their homes and ours. We raised 5 children. A grandson had ALL at 5 years old he is a survivor and now married. His mother is a survivor of breast cancer. Doing well. My first born son is a survivor of ALL. Which is leukemia that children have. It was tough, twice overdose of chemo almost killed him and now he deals with the effects of that, but he is alive. At 59 years old. Now my husband has alzheimers at 81. I am 80. It is most difficult to take care of the house, the bills, he fell too , more bills, driving, we gAve had a lif time of cHalle gesture that areally too numerous tother write. I have so much for which to be thankful. I have a hope for a better land with my Jesus. He is coming soon. All these difficulties will be as nothing when we see Him. Take Him into your life. Look for His love, you will find it. Be of good cheer, he is coming soon.

  6. deborah Smith

    April 2, 2016 Reply

    I was born when my mom was 45, She had a tumor, which was removed when she was abt 80 She always said I didn't have this until you were born! It was 8#. I said that's my twin! Dr didn't see the humor. (I have a dry sense of humor) Anyway, I took care of my parents, as all of my siblings moved away, except for one brother. I married, bad decision, Dr.'s son, didn't work, said he was going to collage, just sleeping around. I was supporting him. Got a divorce after getting punched, phone disconnected! Married someone, I thought love of my life. We had 5 kids, beautiful kids! My husband worked a shift job, Days, nights, afternoons! Need to keep kids quiet while he's sleeping. I worked a day job, Heating bill got too high, so worked nights. After 32 yrs at the job I had it, I said I quit! I was in management, but the stress was too much! Youngest daughter outta college! Too much stress! My husband quit work @ his job as he had a total shoulder replacement. I think in 2005. Then replacement surgery again. Dr put the wrong ball in his shoulder. I quit working in 2008, think my replacement messed up my retirement. Now I'm a professional butt wiper! (For the grand kids) Oldest is 7 , youngest is 2 mo. Tonight I picked up the boys from day care, my husband got them all worked up, then got mad. They thought he was playing with them. My dr said I should get rid of my stress! I said Jack stresses me out! Dr asked who is that? My daughter said dad! Dr rather back peddled said I didn't mean that! My son was in Iraq, I almost lost it, my youngest daughter said mom let it go! I thought you have never had a baby! You don't know the fear & sleepless nights you have! Then news came on the radio, one killed & 1 injurerd. Thankfully he came home in 1 piece. Now he is divorced & has a son. Got picked pu as he was too tired to drive, had been drinking, pulled over & fell asleep. I knew something was wrong, so couldn't sleep. May loose his job. He is smart, very mad at himself. Thanks for listening!

  7. Marianne Manas

    January 25, 2016 Reply

    I have suffered from stress from a small child and it continued through my marriage and later caring for my invalid mother.

    My father was an alcoholic and very nervous and hot tempered. I grew up as an only child and my mother was kind but afraid of him and continued in the marriage. My mother had me after 9 almost 10 years of marriage and had a hard time getting pregnant.
    Both my father and mother were only children so not only did I not have any siblings but no aunts, uncles, or cousins. It was a very lonely life, especially on holidays. Both grandfathers of mine passed away before I was 6 years old.

    On holidays, I was just Dad, Mom, myself and two grandmothers. At an early age, I wondered if I would have a hard time conceiving like my mother. I felt that my life would not be fulfilling if I also could not have children. I desperately wanted to have a family of my own. I got married at 18 and after three months of marriage, I got pregnant and had a healthy baby boy. Two years later when I was 21 I had a healthy baby girl. Life seemed to be going good but in 1968, my husband had a spinal cord injury and became disabled. I was the sole support of my family and care giver for him for 18 years. He passed away when I was 41 years old in 1986.

    My son was already working and my daughter was finishing her last year in college. My father passed away in 1988 and shortly after my mother found out she had breast cancer. After surgery, she stayed with me for about 4 months and then went back to her own house. In 1989, my son had surgery for malignant melanoma but it did not spread and is well and now is 52 years old.

    My mother needed help with grocery shopping and personal care after my father passed away since she didn't drive so I had to go to her house every Saturday to help her shop and bathe her since during the week she just had sponge baths. In 1995, I sold my house and moved closer to my mother. By this time, my mother was 80 years old and beside working, I had to help her with just about everything. I went through a lot of stress both at work and at home. She moved in with me permanently and at about the age of 84, she became bedridden and I cared for her until she passed away in 2008 just two months short of her 93rd birthday. I didn't have the heart to put her in a nursing home since she always told me that the day I was born was the happiest day of her life. I have gone through so much stress and problems with sleeping. I have had a hip replacement in 2010 and breast surgery in 2014, fortunately no sign of cancer just atypical ductal papilloma. Now I am stable and take medication to keep me that way and keep praying that nothing will change and I will live out my life peacefully.


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