Like the flu, work stress has become epidemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that up to 40 percent of Americans rate their job stress as extremely high. The damage isn’t just emotional, however. Chronic stress debilitates the body and lowers resistance to disease. Fortunately, you can take simple steps to relax and beat the grind.
When Stress Works Overtime
Physiologically, working under constant stress is like racing your car’s engine with the parking brake on. Parts start wearing out. Integrative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil notes that while our minds have embraced modern life, our bodies haven’t changed much in ten thousand years. They are not designed for long, sedentary hours facing chronic anxiety.
A major culprit is the hormone cortisol. Cortisol plays a crucial role in the fight-or-flight response, arming us with short-term energy, enhanced memory and pain tolerance. However, extended stress triggers chronically elevated levels that lead to health problems. Common effects are insomnia, depression, poor memory, and lowered immunity. Longer term, cortisol overload contributes to heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders.
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