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In the world we live in today, we are bombarded by stress triggers big and small, all day long.  Strangely enough, we have a collective mindset that stress is an accepted obstacle of our daily routine, like a paper cut that we should just “rub some dirt in” and keep on with our day.However, the physical and mental damage stress puts on the body is often irreversible.

Appropriate stress management promises a more vibrant life–you can experience mood improvement, a boost in your immune system and even prolong your life. A huge part of managing stress is understanding what you’re dealing with. Below is a breakdown of stress and it’s affects on the body.

Types of Stress:

  • Circumstantial or acute stress is a survival mechanism left over from our hunter-gatherer days.
  • Chronic stress has become a global epidemic, leading to major damage to our bodies and minds.

Stress on the Respiratory System: Stress makes you breathe harder than normal, or cause irregular breathing. If you have a lung disease or asthma, this can pose a big problem in the long run. Fortunately, there are many deep breathing and relaxation strategies that you can learn to have better control over your breathing and stress overall.

Chronic stress is responsible for more serious mental damage and can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks and phobias
  • Memory loss

Consider taking up a meditation routine. Even 5 minutes a day can reduce the effects of stress. Some studies have also shown that doodling can in fact alleviate stress.

Stress and Musculoskeletal Pain: When we’re stressed, our muscles constrict and tighten as defense against threat of injury. Frequent stress can cause chronic pain in the muscles. Exercising daily increases Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in your brain, a protein which boosts its vitality. Exercise can be anything from high-impact cardio like running, or less strenuous like yoga or a brisk walk.

Cardiovascular Stress: The cardiovascular system is affected by stress differently depending on what kind of stress you are experiencing. In the case of acute stress, like when you experience a sudden, potentially life-threatening (or perceived as life-threatening) situation, you will feel your heart rate shoot up. Adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol will pulse through you, known as the fight-or-flight response, before returning to normal. Chronic stress means more strain on the heart and more hormonal spikes, most commonly leading to hypertension, heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. There are many relaxation exercises you can use to alleviate stress on the heart.

**Stress management can often feel paralyzing, and difficult to manage alone. If you feel your stress is causing , please consider seeking professional help.