Bonus YSS: How does stress affect my health?

How does stress affect my health?

A little bit of nervousness helps you get through stressful or challenging situations, so that’s normal. In fact, our bodies are geared for this – we produce a stress hormone called cortisol that actually helps us when we are in these normal stressful situations.

The problem begins when you face high stressful situations a lot of the time. And, as a result of that, you begin to pump a lot of cortisol throughout your body on a continuous basis. Chronic stress – chronic cortisol – is not good for you on several levels:

First, the cortisol released hinders (hurts) some functions of your brain like memory – an important process to learning. When fighting to survive you don’t need to spend energy creating memories (indeed you may not want to remember it!) so cortisol helps focus your brain power more towards other important aspects of survival. But, to survive in school (and life), you need your memory to function well!

Second, high levels of stress have been linked to heart disease, stroke and sudden death. Stress causes inflammation and that can lead to all sorts of physical health complications including obesity and diabetes.

Third, chronic stress considerably increases the risk for developing anxiety (and depression).You can read more about those under the Anxiety post, and the Depression post.

Needless to say, in order to stay healthy, it’s best to begin with the ability to recognize and manage your stress. (Please visit the Stress Reduction post to learn more on that.)

 DID YOU KNOW? Kids raised in anxious, stressful or chaotic environments had a smaller hippocampus than other children. The hippocampus is a part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

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