We all constantly feel stress — from family, work, illness and whatever circumstances life decides to throw at us next.
And, believe it or not, stress can be a good thing when it happens in short doses.
In great times of need, cortisol, our main stress hormone, becomes the body's No. 1 sidekick — getting us ready to respond in a fight-or-flight situation. Adrenaline, another hormone activated by stress, gets our hearts pumping and our blood pressure up, causes our muscles tense and keeps our minds hyper-focused on the task at hand — just ask people who swear that they do their best work at the last minute.
But...too much of a good thing is not good for our bodies in the long run.
Chronic stress significantly increases risks for many chronic diseases, including:
- Heart disease
It also can cause problems, such as tension headaches, sexual dysfunction and hair loss. It can also have a devastating impact on your mental health.
In the infographic below, find out 13 ways stress affects your body:
What is chronic stress?
As mentioned, a little stress here and there can be a good thing.
But, when stress is persistent, your body gets exposed to excessive amounts of cortisol, adrenaline and other stress hormones. This can disrupt many of the natural functions of your body, including sleep, digestion, memory and concentration, metabolism and more.
Stress happens, that's just life.
However, it's important to take steps to limit chronic stress, such as:
- Getting plenty of exercise
- Eating a healthy diet
- Engaging in relaxing behaviors, like deep breathing, yoga and meditation
- Socializing and spending time with family and friends
- Setting aside "me" time for your hobbies and other interests