It’s common knowledge that living a healthy lifestyle can prevent health issues from developing further down the road. Everyone knows that eating well, sleeping well, and getting enough exercise are key elements in promoting longevity and preventing chronic illness.
In addition to a poor diet and lack of exercise, there’s also another factor that plays a role in chronic disease—stress. It’s long been known that stress can exacerbate a condition, but in some cases, it can increase your risk of developing one as well.
HarborChase Senior Living, with retirement communities across the United States, celebrates senior living and encourages a healthy and informed lifestyle. We’re sharing some information on the relationship between chronic stress and disease and tips and strategies for stress management.
How Does Stress Cause Chronic Diseases?
A chronic illness cannot necessarily be cured but can typically be prevented or managed. Common chronic diseases include diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and lung disease. Most of these can potentially be prevented with a nutritious diet, proper exercise, tobacco avoidance, and stress management.
You may think of stress as merely a psychological response that affects your mental state and not your physical state. However, studies have shown that chronic stress can negatively impact nearly every system in your body—eventually making you more susceptible to chronic conditions.
When our minds get stressed, our bodies react by releasing the stress hormone cortisol. The exposure to cortisol is usually nothing to worry about, but when your body is exposed to a constant flow (when you’re experiencing chronic stress), it can have detrimental effects. Over time, chronic stress can cause the following:
- High Blood Pressure
- Weakened Immune System
- Increased Risk of Heart Attack
- Weight Gain
Eventually, chronic stress can lead to countless health issues, which can cause more stress—creating a dangerous cycle. The good news, though, is that like most other chronic disease preventatives, stress management is a simple and valuable technique that can reduce your risk for most chronic illnesses.
Preventing Chronic Illness Through Stress Management
Unfortunately, stress is a part of life and is not always avoidable or controllable. Fortunately, though, you can learn what events trigger stress and control how you react to them. By learning to manage your stress, you can take care of yourself both emotionally and physically in the face of stressful situations. Here are some stress management techniques:
Identify What is Causing Your Stress.
Try to pinpoint the root of your stress and write it down. If possible, try to eliminate that factor from your life. If that’s not possible, try to develop strategies on how to handle that situation the next time it occurs.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with stress, take a few moments to yourself and practice some deep breathing techniques. Eliminate all distractions so that you are no longer thinking about what is causing your stress.
Get Outside and Get Active.
Find an activity that you enjoy and aim to get active for at least 30 minutes a day. Whether swimming, cycling, or taking a stroll around a garden, staying active will lift your mood and reduce stress levels.
Socialize Often (with Animals Too!)
By maintaining a close circle of friends and family, you can ensure that you always have someone to talk to when you find yourself in a stressful situation. Pets are also a great way to reduce stress. Whether you have a pet of your own or participate in a pet therapy program, stroking and cuddling with a dog or cat has been shown to bring about stress relief.
Promoting a Healthy and Stress-Free Life
The idea of a chronic illness can be intimidating and, in itself, stressful, but it’s important to remember that by taking care of yourself, you can greatly reduce your risk of these conditions. Eating well, staying active, and managing chronic stress are key components in preventing chronic diseases from developing. By following some of our stress management strategies, you can live a healthy and stress-free life!