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Why You Need to Get a Handle on Stress

October 19th, 2011 Healthy Living

Stress is a part of everyday life for most people. With jobs, family, money and your own health to manage, it can be hard to get a handle on things and stop worrying about what's coming next. If you have a large amount of stress in your life, you may not even realize the negative effects its having on your health. You may attribute your headache or sore muscles to a cold or lack of sleep, but in fact, stress could be the culprit. Here are a few ways stress can negatively impact your well-being and how you can regain control of it, according to Martha Stewart's Whole Living magazine and the Mayo Clinic.

What stress is Whole Living reports that stress is the body's way of reacting to something that exceeds its capacity to respond. When something is perceived as harmful to the body, hormones are released by the brain into the bloodstream, which in turn can cause an increase in blood pressure, rapid breathing, slowed digestive system, rising pulse, drop in the immune system's effectiveness, tense muscles and heightened state of alertness. If these stress symptoms last for long periods of time, they may contribute to health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

How your body reacts Whole Living notes the ways stress can affect your body and how you can take steps to reduce the symptoms.

• Lack of sleep. When you're anxious about something, it's much harder for your body to relax and get into sleep mode, which is why you can end up lying in bed for hours if there's something you can't get out of your head. Try to wind down before bedtime by taking a bath or reading a book. Avoid watching television before bed and try drinking a warm glass of milk to make yourself feel tired.

• Weakened immune system. Psychological stress makes the body more susceptible to germs and less likely to be able to fight off illness. Stress hormones have also been shown to age immune cells faster. Try to calm yourself down and do something you enjoy when you find yourself worrying about something and make sure to get plenty of sleep and eat right.

• High blood pressure. This condition is very unhealthy if left untreated because it can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and even blindness. If you stress less, eat healthy and get plenty of exercise, you'll be better able to stay healthy.

• Skin conditions. Wrinkles and blemishes are known to develop more often when your body is stressed. Puffy skin, dark circles and a blotchy complexion can be avoided by reducing your stress levels and getting plenty of sleep. Over-the-counter treatments and serums can also help minimize the appearance of problem skin.

• Weight gain. The hormones released in response to stress can cause you to gain weight. If you don't get enough sleep and make poor food choices, you're much more likely to pack on pounds. Avoid this by making it a point to get up and move, even if it's just going for a quick walk. Also, stay away from junk food and comfort foods that you're likely to binge on when you're stressed.

Before you can begin fixing all of these issues, it's important to identify what is stressing you out so you can get rid of those factors. Whether it's your environment, work, family, social life or a major life changing event - figure out ways to manage how you feel about them. Once you develop a plan of action, you'll feel much better - mentally and physically.