‘Stress’. Even saying the word out loud raises the heart rate a little, a cold sweat accumulating on the brow. Perhaps its the ‘sssss’ sound; like the hissing of a gas canister about to explode, or the warning sign of a snake approaching, even the soundtrack of all those teenagers outside your window doing laughing gas every night. It’s enough to make anyone anxious.
In fact, stress has been labelled a silent killer by the American Brain Society, and they’d know about this sort of thing, right? In fact, Forbes reported that work stress may contribute to 120’000 deaths each year in the US alone. Suddenly that approaching snake doesn’t seem so lethal.
Yep, it’s vital you do all you can to stay composed and calm, particularly in these turbulent times. To hammer home the point, here are 4 reasons why it’s so important to keep stress under control.
STRESS MAKES US LESS SMART
Stress can lead to physical and emotional changes and challenges, with acute stress affecting cognitive function to the extent that common tasks become difficult to complete.
In 2013, a study was carried out revealing that even the smallest levels of stress could affect our emotions, and in more severe cases, can wreak havoc on the ‘’neurotransmitters central to emotion, cognition and memory’’.
On the flip side, proper stress management may protect you from developing problems later in life related to stress and cognitive function, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In short, practicing a peaceful outlook, however that may look to you, could be the key to better mental health in the future.
STRESS CAN AFFECT YOUR SEX LIFE
It may surprise you to learn that a wide variety of sexual performance issues are tied in to stress. In fact, one study found that in men, stress can affect testosterone levels and bring about low libido.
That’s not all. Stress and its resultant ‘fight or flight’ response can bring about the release of the ‘stress hormones’ cortisol and epinephrine, which can cause a decreased sex drive. Even more worryingly, when stress gets chronic, the body uses up sex hormones to meet the increased demands for higher cortisol production, resulting in, you guessed it, an even lower libido.
This thing is cyclical, however; more stress about a depleted sex drive will only feed into it, while more of the good stuff can actually contribute to lowering stress levels! In a recent study on rats (yep, there’s the caveat), researchers found that daily sex for two weeks led to cell growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain which keeps stress levels under control.
Phew, are you keeping up? And nope, that didn’t say hippopotamus.
STRESS DAMAGES THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
If you do not keep your stress levels under control, chances are you will need the doctor more often than is necessary because, you guessed it, acute stress can cause chaos in your immune system, making it harder to fight off even the simplest of things, such as a common cold or flu. This is because the stress hormone corticosteroid can weaken the strength and efficiency of your immune system.
If your immune system becomes weak, your body will find it difficult to fight infections, leading to a decreased quality of life, overall. Investing in your health is a great way to help manage this. In fact, taking things a step further; consider getting a health insurance plan which means you will have quick access to healthcare if you find that stress is wreaking havoc not only your mental health, but physical health too.
STRESS INCREASES THE RISK OF COMMON DISEASES
Vulnerability to the risk of certain diseases and conditions can increase with higher levels of stress, too. For example, stress may raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and even asthma. In fact, Science Daily reported earlier this year that being under heavy stress shortens life expectancy by 2.8 years.
It’s vital, then, to take proactive measures to reduce stress. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place for that; check out these 5 free stress relief strategies for Winter 2020 written by the stress reduction experts here at IDEAL.