Stress is a simple fact of life for many of us. It is the price we’re told we need to pay for our ambitions, our careers and our jobs. Indeed stress, in small enough doses, can actually be good for us. It can give us the push we need to be at our best. It can shake us out of sluggishness or apathy. It can increase awareness, focus and concentration, and help to bring out the best in us. Over time, however, stress can become chronic, and this can result in significant health and behavioral problems for us.
The sad truth is that many of us are simply not aware of how damaging stress can be to our overall health and wellbeing. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the crazy things that stress can do to your mind and body (and what you need to do about it).
It can make you a dangerous driver
Chronic stress can make us more impulsive and prone to risk taking behaviors on the road and elsewhere (more on that later). It can also prevent us from getting the sleep our bodies and brains need to function optimally. This can slow reaction times thereby making us unable to perceive hazards as effectively as we could if our minds were rested. It’s always worth taking a few deep breaths before getting into the car, or better yet carrying out some mindfulness meditation before getting behind the wheel.
It can lead to poor eating behaviors, weight loss and weight gain
Stress can suppress the appetite while also burning calories in excess, causing you to lose weight and miss out on the nourishment your body needs. However, it can also go the other way and cause you to comfort eat at the end of a long and stressful day. This is why it’s important to stay away from the vending machines at work and their high-cal, low-nutrient sugary, salty and fatty treats. Keep some healthy snacks at your desk, graze throughout the day and remember to stay hydrated no matter how busy you get.
It can lead to risky sexual behaviors
Stress can lead to impulsivity and this in turn can lead to risky sexual behaviors like unprotected sex, non-monogamous behaviors (infidelity) and one-night stands. All too often this occurs when judgment has been impaired by alcohol and other substances which brings us to…
It can push us to drugs and alcohol abuse
Chronic stress can push us towards less than healthy ways of unwinding, especially when we factor in peer pressure from friends and co-workers. Drugs and alcohol abuse may seem like a handy release valve for stress but they have no place in a healthy lifestyle, and it’s only a matter of time before addiction sets in. Addiction therapy programs can help to break destructive cycles and help you gravitate towards healthier and more productive ways to deal with your stress.
It can ruin your relationship
Finally, stress can make you emotionally erratic, prone to irritability or emotionally absent at home. If you feel like your stress is turning you into someone you don’t want to be, you may need to take some vacation pay or call in some personal days. Remember to keep your sights set on what’s really important.