Is stress ever a good thing?
We have all experienced stress at some point in our lives. Most people experience some degree of stress every day. In fact, a little bit of stress can be a good thing! It provides you with the motivation to get things done. Without stress, it would be quite an unproductive world that we live in. Good stress can also occur when starting a new job, getting married, or going on a trip.
When does stress become bad for you?
However, it can become a bad thing when the stress becomes prolonged, and does not go away. Consequently, you may begin to exhibit signs and symptoms of stress. When this happens, stress can become detrimental to your heart and blood vessels within your body.
What does prolonged stress contribute to?
- Increased cholesterol
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Increased risk of clots
Your heart works harder during times of stress as your pulse may also increase. It is common to see an increase in the risk of a heart attack, if you are dealing with a stressful event for many months. As a result, stress cannot be taken lightly.
So, what can you do to help your heart?
1) Get regular medical check-ups — It is important for your physician to know if you have a family history of heart disease. He can also check your blood pressure, and take a blood test to check your cholesterol levels.
2) Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress — Surprisingly, you may not recognize when your body is under stress. This is actually quite common, but unfortunate. If it is something that has been going on for a long time, you may even have forgotten what it feels like for your body to be in a relaxed, non-stressed state. Here are some symptoms of stress:
- Chronic Fatigue — When stress never goes away, you will begin to feel tired all the time. Activities that you normally could perform, begin to feel like a chore. You may prefer to sleep all the time, and socializing with friends and family may drop to the bottom of your priority list as you just do not have the energy to entertain and be entertained.
- Feeling Burnt-Out — Burn-out may demonstrate as fatigue, but also as feelings of nausea, general unwellness, irritability, decreased concentration, decreased interest in things, and decreased coping skills. You may also experience a sore stomach or diarrhea.
- Increased Susceptibility to Infection — You may notice that you get sick more often and you catch more colds. A negative effect of stress is that your immune system, which is what protects you from germs and viruses, becomes weaker and cannot ward off infections as well as it used to.
- Trouble Sleeping — You may find it hard to fall asleep at night or to stay sleeping at night, because you are thinking about all the stressful things in your life.
- Inability to Relax — You may feel like your heart is always going a mile a minute, and taking your pulse confirms it. You may even feel shaky and weak at times. Feeling anxious is another thing that you may experience.
- Depression or sadness — This can be another symptom of stress. It can result from a feeling of hopelessness or feelings of being overwhelmed.
3) Take control over your stress — Find healthy ways to let off steam such as through exercise (once approved by your physician), changing your mindset, and talking with friends. Meditation, or Yoga is also a popular method of easing off stress. Try out different ways to see which suits you and helps you.
4) Take your medications as prescribed — If you have already developed heart-related health problems such as high blood pressure or increased cholesterol, your physician may advise you to take prescription medications. There are many people who have been on anti-hypertensive (high blood pressure) medications for years, and can live long and happy lives. Failure to comply with medications may result in further damage to your heart and blood vessels.
Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to get rid of all forms of stress in your life, but you can certainly learn to recognize it and control it before it gets the best of you. It is never too late to make changes, even if stress has already started to take its toll on your body.