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The Connection Between Stress & Disease: 5 Ways to Manage Stress Effectively

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Stress is defined as “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation.” But the reality is that stress isn’t just a feeling. It’s a built-in physiologic response to a threat. When you’re stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. Your blood vessels constrict. Your blood pressure and pulse rise. You breathe faster. Your bloodstream is flooded with cortisol and adrenaline.

What happens to your body when you’re chronically stressed? Long-term stress doesn’t just exacerbate existing disease. It can actually cause new disease. In this article, let’s talk about illnesses born out of stress, the benefits of managing stress, and 5 ways you can manage stress effectively.

Stress-Related Illness

Before stress causes a full-blown disease, stress manifests itself in emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms.

If you’re stressed, your EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS might include:

  • Irritable, angry, impatient, or wound up
  • Over-burdened or overwhelmed
  • Anxious, nervous, or afraid
  • Your thoughts race and you can’t switch them off
  • Unable to enjoy yourself
  • Uninterested in life
  • Loss of sense of humor
  • A sense of dread
  • Worried or tense
  • Neglected or lonely
  • Existing mental health problems get worse

If you’re stressed, your PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS might include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Panic attacks
  • Blurred eyesight or sore eyes
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Feeling sick, dizzy, or fainting
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Rashes or itchy skin
  • Sweating
  • Changes to your period or menstrual cycle
  • Existing physical health problems get worse

If you’re stressed, your BEHAVIORS might include:

  • Find it hard to make decisions
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Unable to remember things, or your memory feels slower than usual
  • Constantly worry or have feelings of dread
  • Snap at people
  • Bite your nails
  • Pick at or itch your skin
  • Grind your teeth or clench your jaw
  • Experience sexual problems, such as losing interest in sex or being unable to enjoy sex
  • Eat too much or too little
  • Smoke, use recreational drugs, or drink alcohol more than usual
  • Restless, can’t sit still
  • Cry or feel tearful
  • Spend or shop too much
  • Exercise too much or not as much as you usually would
  • Withdraw from people around you

If these emotions, physical reactions, and behaviors stay unchecked for too long, they can lead to very serious diseases including:

  • Hypertension: Stress triggers high blood pressure, which is linked with stroke and heart disease.
  • Auto Immune Diseases: Stress triggers the release of cytokines that are known to turn your immune system on and can lead to inflammation. While there is no conclusive evidence that stress causes chronic autoimmune diseases like Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and IBD, stress definitely aggravates auto immune symptoms and disease flareups.
  • Chronic Inflammation: Chronic inflammation damages blood vessels and brain cells, leads to insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes) and promotes painful joint diseases like osteoarthritis, bursitis, or gout, as well as skin conditions such as eczema.
  • Depression: Depressed people have elevated cortisol levels, and this stress hormone can eventually alter the hippocampus and permanently damage brain cells. That altered brain state can lead to a lifetime of memory impairment, inability to focus and concentrate, and more.
  • Poor Gut Health: Stress can change the balance of bacteria in the gut because the immune system is not functioning properly. Poor gut health is a critical factor in IBS ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and other digestive problems.
  • Chronic back/neck/shoulder pain: Many of us spend our workday sitting in front of a computer, leading to musculoskeletal pain. Workplace stress leads to inflammation which prevents full healing, leaving people with a lifetime of pain.
  • Obesity: Stress hormones stimulate a preference for sugar, starch, and fat. The stress response also produces a rise in insulin levels and a fall in fat oxidation, which promotes fat storage. Obesity can lead to high cholesterol, gallbladder disease, stroke, and more.

The Benefits of Managing Stress

Why put in the effort to manage stress? Stress relievers can help restore calm and serenity to your chaotic life. Managing stress can also lead to better sleep, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, boosted immune system, lower blood sugar, reduced muscle tension, less joint pain, improved hormone balance, better weight control, minimized mood swings, fewer headaches, and fewer colds. WOW!

5 Ways to Manage Stress Effectively

You may not be able to remove all the stressors from your life, but you can change how you respond to them. Stress management is realizing that you are in control of your life, and stress management techniques are the best way to change how you respond to stressors. When you work to lower your stress, you’ll tamp down the emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms that could lead to long-term disease.

Try these proven stress management techniques the next time you are under stress:

  1. Meditation: Meditation, deep breathing, and practicing mindfulness can calm your mind and body and bring your stress level down to a manageable level.
  2. Stay Active: Low impact exercise is a great way to destress. Try tai chi, yoga, Pilates, aquarobics, or swimming to get your stress under control.
  3. Take Care of Your Body: Eat a nutritionally balanced diet, get deep, restorative sleep, drink plenty of water, and avoid drugs and alcohol. The healthier your body is, the better it can weather a cortisol storm when you are stressed.
  4. Connect with others: Whether you talk out your problems with a trusted friend or with a mental health professional, feeling heard and supported makes all the difference in minimizing stress.
  5. Connect With Your Faith: Feeling a connection with God and worshipping Him in a supportive faith community helps you banish stress by feeling secure in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit surrounds you in good times and bad.

One of the best ways to beat stress is to take a holistic healing retreat at OHI. Our Emotional Detoxification class will help you discover the healing power of forgiveness, and our Mental Detoxification class will teach you how to cancel negative thinking to facilitate healing. Our Alpha I & II classes, Vocal Toning class, and Conscious Breathing I & II classes will teach you meditation and breathwork to better manage stress. And our Lymphatic Exercise class will help your lymphatic system eliminate stress toxins and promote healing. A holistic healing retreat at OHI will teach you a wealth of stress management techniques to help stop disease before it starts.

Learn to Manage Stress Effectively at an OHI Wellness Retreat

Stress is a state of worry caused by a difficult situation. Stress is an inevitable part of life, but the way that we deal with stress makes all the difference to our overall health and wellbeing. When under stress, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode and your bloodstream is flooded with cortisol. If your body is subjected to chronic stress, the constant flow of cortisol can lead to very serious diseases including hypertension, heart disease, auto immune diseases, chronic inflammation, depression, poor gut health, and more. Effective stress management techniques like meditation, exercise, self-care, and connecting with God are all great ways to process stress before it leads to chronic disease. Come to OHI for a holistic healing retreat and find out how to beat stress and lead a happier, healthier life for the rest of your life!

A holistic healing retreat at OHI will teach you how to effectively manage stress and stop disease before it starts!

Give yourself the gift of a healing retreat at OHI and jumpstart your holistic healing journey. Book your next visit to OHI today. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 to learn more about our holistic approach to health and wellness.