According to stress studies, people with medical conditions such as heart disease, mental illness or other chronic diseases are the most vulnerable to negative consequences of stress but even healthy people are also at risk.
Relation of stress and heart disease has been widely studied and stress researchers say that mental stress increases the body’s demand for oxygen by raising blood pressure and heart rate. Mental stress can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke or even death for people who already suffer from heart disease. According to David S. Krantz, PhD, stress can also act as a trigger for heart attack or stroke in people with undiagnosed heart disease. He says that people who may not be aware that they’re in the early stages of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries and are stressed out can set off dangerous plaque ruptures which can lead to potentially life-threatening events like heart attacks or strokes.
Steven Tovian, PhD, director of health psychology at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare in Evanston, Ill., says that stress also directly affects a part of the nervous system that controls the glands, heart, digestive system, respiratory system, and skin. That means any pre-existing medical condition that is influenced by a nervous system response such as chronic pain, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), digestive disorders, or headaches is likely to become exacerbated by stress when the already overworked system becomes overloaded by additional stress. In addition, Tovian says anyone with anyone who suffers from a history of mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, is also at risk for a worsening of symptoms at times of extreme stress. The truth is that you don’t have to be ill to suffer from the effects of stress on your physical as well as mental health. Stress can also make healthy people more vulnerable to sickness by weakening the immune system and making it easier to catch a cold or other contagious illness.
So how do you combat stress and prevent further sickness? Here are some ways to eliminate stress:
Stress Reduction Techniques #1: Attitude Is Everything
Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD, says what happens is that certain components of the immune system become less effective at fighting off illness, especially those caused by viruses, when exposed to stress over days or weeks. But she says attitude plays a critical role in preventing sickness caused by stress which causes additional stress.
So keep a positive attitude and a balanced perspective on events going on in the world as well as closer to home to combat stress because people who focus only on negative information to the exclusion of more positive information will perceive more stress and, therefore, suffer more serious consequences in their mental and physical health.
Stress Reduction Techniques#2: Attempt to Maintain a Normal Routine
Sticking to a schedule can help you feel more in control of your life even when the circumstances around you are chaotic which in turn can offer stress relief.
Stress Reduction Techniques #3: Surround Yourself with Friends and Loved Ones
Make and keep connections with friends, family, clergy, and other confidants because maintaining a strong social support network can act as a buffer against stress.
Stress Reduction Techniques #4: Pursue Your Passions
Another good way to combat stress and prevent yourself from getting sick is by learning how to appreciate the good things in your life. Make time for things that you enjoy, whatever that may be, such as playing with your children or pets, exercise, reading a book, etc.
Stress Reduction Techniques #5: Learn to Relax
Give yourself a break and stay away from things that rile you in times of stress. Limit contact with people or things that cause stress, especially around bedtime.
Stress Reduction Techniques #6: Participate in a volunteer activity.
Assisting others in a time of need can not only offer stress relief but it can also be empowering. So offer your services to those in need.
Stress Reduction Techniques #7: Take care of yourself.
Lastly, it’s important that you know how to take care of yourself. Don’t let stress affect your diet, sleep schedule, or exercise habits. This is the best way to eliminate stress and prevent sickness.