Unhealthy impacts of stress


SPRINGFIELD — Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Your body is hard-wired to react to stress in ways meant to protect you against potential threats. However, failing to cope and manage your stress can land you in the doctor’s office if you’re not careful.

“Finding yourself a little sweaty and extra alert before a big presentation or solving a problem at work can be a good thing. However, long-term activation of your body’s stress response can lead to overexposure to stress hormones which can disrupt almost all your body’s processes and increase your risk of illness,” explained Dr. Jordan Allison, a clinical psychologist seeing patients at Mercy Health – Urbana Family Medicine and Pediatrics and Mercy Health – Urbana Internal Medicine.

During times of stress, adrenaline increases your heart rate and elevates your blood pressure. The primary stress hormone, cortisol, increases sugars in the bloodstream. Too much cortisol can also suppress your immune system, cause digestive problems and lead to weight gain. When you’re stressed, it’s also normal for your muscles to tighten up, which can lead to headaches. If your body is constantly on guard, responding to stress, it can also lead to feelings of fatigue.

“Stressful events are a fact of life, but you can take steps to manage the impact they have on you. Learn to identify what causes your stress and how to take care of yourself in the face of stressful situations,” said Allison.

Stress management starts with the basics you commonly hear – eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. You can also practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, keep a journal and foster healthy relationships with friends and family who can help support you in times of stress. You also want to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms such as excessive drinking or stress eating.

“You should seek out professional help if you’re engaging in unhealthy behaviors or find that stress is causing a major decline in your quality of life,” advised Allison. “We can provide a number of solutions ranging from counseling and therapy to even some medications that can help calm your worries.”

If you’re ready to reduce your stress and lead a happier, more relaxed life, visit mercy.com to make an appointment with a primary care doctor or specialist today. Together, we can figure out supportive ways to address your worries and lower stress and its effects on your health.

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