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Why Do We Get Sick When We're Stressed?


Long-term stress which just doesn't seem to go away can both harm your mental health and negatively affect your physical health. Learn how stress affects the body and what you can do about it.

The effects of stress on your body

Stress causes your body to go into fight-or-flight mode. This reaction is intended to help you in potentially dangerous situations. A body in fight-or-flight mode releases a variety of hormones, some of which slow down functions that are not essential to the current situation, such as the immune system, and others that increase your blood pressure and heart rate. Once the perceived danger has subsided, you should calm down and your bodily functions should return to normal.

But what happens if the stress is long-term and does not subside? Your body will get stuck in fight-or-flight mode and continue to release hormones that can suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to disease.

Paths to stress management

Sometimes, stress is simply unavoidable. Whether you have work, school, finances or relationships weighing on your mind, here are a few ways to reduce the impact of tension on your body:

  • Pull the plug and spend some time in nature
  • Read a book
  • Try yoga
  • Exercise for 30 minutes
  • Cook yourself a healthy and tasty meal
  • Meditate
  • Write in a journal to process your day
  • Talk to a loved one
     

Regular relaxing activities can help to get out of fight-or-flight mode and let the body function as it is meant to.

If you need help coping with stress or overcoming an illness, make an appointment with one of Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group's trusted primary care physicians. They can help you find ways to deal with anxiety and determine a course of action to keep your health on track.

Sources:
American Psychological Association | Stress Weakens the Immune System
PSC, Federal Occupational Health | Take Time to Unwind…
Healthline | What Is Stress-Related Illness?  
NIH, The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) | 5 Things You Should Know About Stress

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