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Why Do We Get Sick When We're Stressed?

Long-term stress that just doesn’t seem to go away can not only harm your mental health, but it can also negatively impact your physical health. Learn how stress affects the body and what you can do about it.

The Impact of Stress on Your Body

When you become stressed, your body immediately goes into a fight-or-flight mode. This reaction is meant to help you in potentially dangerous situations. A body in fight-or-flight 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 clears, you should be able to calm down, and your bodily functions should return to normal.

But what happens when the stress is long-term and doesn’t subside? Your body gets stuck in fight-or-flight mode and continues to release hormones that can suppress your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to illness.  

Ways to Cope with Stress

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

  • Unplug and spend some time in nature
  • Read a book
  • Try yoga
  • Spend 30 minutes exercising
  • Cook yourself a healthy and delicious meal
  • Meditate
  • Journal about your day
  • Talk with a loved one

Regularly engaging in relaxing activities can help take you out of fight-or-flight mode and let your body work the way it’s supposed to.

If you need help managing stress or overcoming an illness, schedule an appointment with one of the trusted primary care physicians at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group. They can help you find ways to cope 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