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How Does Stress Affect Health

Stress is a pervasive problem in the contemporary world. If untreated it can have devastating consequences. This article will help you understand how stress affects health.
Stress is any event that a human being perceives as harmful or threatening. The body reacts to stress with 'fight or flight' response. Stress hormones like adrenaline, dopamine, cortisol, noradrenaline, and endorphins are released in the blood when one experiences stress.

Not all stress is bad. Sportsperson and other performers use stress to bring the best in them. No stress will lead one to be lazy and unproductive. A little stress makes one alert and focused. Stress is bad when one experiences it for a prolonged period.

Effects of Stress on Health

In today's sedentary world, there is more of mental and social stress than physical stress. Students are prone to 'Exam stress', which includes anxiety about exams. Stress can also result in poor memory, concentration and irritability. Stress may also cause poor appetite and digestion. Long-term stress leads to reduced immunity of the body making one susceptible to various illnesses. Stress is a major cause of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. It may trigger off major mental illnesses like schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Increased eating caused by stress can lead to obesity, which greatly increases the risk of cardio-vascular disease. One may experience headaches, nausea and fatigue. Though stress does not cause ulcers it increases its risk. It may slow down the healing process of ulcers. Stress causes high blood pressure that can damage blood vessels and internal organs. It can even lead to strokes. Increased stress can lead to overeating to alleviate it, which may lead to diabetes. Stress can also cause back pain. Stress may lead to hair loss. Stress has effects on fertility too. It can lead to poor sperm and egg production. There could be diminished libido and impotence. To ward off stress, people resort to smoking, consuming alcohol or drug abuse. These are very harmful to the human body.

Combating Stress

Have an optimistic attitude towards life. If you cannot take up an activity learn to say 'No'. Saying yes to every demand may lead you to be overworked and tired. Exercise regularly. Exercise leads to the release of chemicals called endorphins, which are natural stress busters. Yoga and meditation are useful techniques to alleviate stress.

Learn to communicate and assert yourself effectively. Take breaks between work. Learn to delegate responsibility. Do not take the entire work burden on yourself. You should have a 'to-do' list so that you are not burdened with the task of remembering things. You should have well-defined priorities. Do the important tasks before the less important tasks. Reduce your intake of caffeinated drinks like colas, tea and coffee. Don't sit indoors all the time. Go out for a walk or take up an outdoor hobby like gardening.

If you have marital problems consult a marriage counselor. Give yourself rewards for things accomplished. If necessary consult a doctor for stress related problems. Don't try to tackle tasks individually. Form groups with like-minded people. They can be your sounding board and source for encouragement.
By Prabhakar Pillai
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