10 Ways Stress Harms You

Photo by Breno Machaco/Unsplash

Photo by Breno Machaco/Unsplash

It’s a stressful world out there. Time-crunched, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed at work, home and school does not produce good health, just the opposite. Key among the culprits is stress, sometimes inevitable, but always requiring attention.

In order to begin to find effective approaches to deal with stress, it’s first important to know the many ways stress harms you. Here are 10 findings from research that show just how bad stress is for the human body.

High levels of financial stress can make you look older.

As if you don’t have enough to worry about, a new study published in July 2016 in the journal Research on Aging finds that people with high levels of financial stress looked older and appeared to have aged more over a nine-year period than people with a higher level of confidence in their financial control.

Women’s fertility may be negatively affected by stress.

Research finds that stress appears to lower a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant, particularly stress experienced around the time of ovulation. Stress disrupted the signaling between the brain and ovaries, reducing the chance of ovulation.

Stress can make you fat.

It’s not just that gooey chocolate donut that will add pounds to your frame, but a build-up of stress can wreak havoc by packing on weight. That’s the finding of researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine who say that stress triggers a hormone called Adams1 which generates fat in the human body. In addition to increasing your waistline, this stress-induced fat also accumulates around organs like the pancreas and liver, which increases risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Stress may wipe out benefits of a healthy diet in women.

Researchers at Ohio State University found that the prior day’s stressful events seemed to eradicate any health benefits women might have gained from eating a healthier breakfast that’s rich in “good” monounsaturated fats. The study’s lead researcher, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, said stress complicates the way the body processes food.

Early-life exposure to stress can lead to adult illnesses.

Researchers at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine studied zebrafish embryos chronically exposed to the stress hormone cortisol for just a few days and found that they developed into adults with signs of chronic inflammation and abnormal immune systems. Early-life exposure to chronically elevated levels of cortisol results in lasting developmental changes affecting processes in adult life that are critical to immune system function and regulation.

Stress may exact the greatest toll on younger women with heart disease.

A study of nearly 700 men and women with heart disease found that stress was harder on women aged 50 or younger. They were nearly four times than either men of the same age or older women to have reduced blood flow to the heart. Reduced blood flow can often lead to a heart attack. The study suggested that younger women, who juggle work, family and financial responsibilities and routinely feel stressed need better assessment of life’s stressors and more support coping with them.

Prolonged stress affects short-term memory.

A study from the University of Iowa found a potential link between stress hormones and short-term memory loss in older adults. High levels of cortisol – a natural hormone present in the body that surges when a person is stressed—are the culprit. Short-term spikes in cortisol help a person to cope and respond to life’s challenges, but abnormal spikes like those experienced during long-term stress can wreak havoc on memory by “weathering the brain.”

Stress is linked to breast cancer.

Researchers at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey are studying a link between stress and breast cancer, specifically in the p53 protein. The protein, say researchers, reacts to large numbers of stress signals. If p53 becomes malformed, it could spark an uncontrollable reaction, causing cells to continuously reproduce, and those cells would be considered cancerous. About one in eight women will develop aggressive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. According to the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, more than 40,000 women are expected to die in 2016 due to breast cancer.

Depression, emotional stress may cause type 2 diabetes.

Longitudinal studies suggest that not only depression, but also general emotional stress are associated with an increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes.

Emotional stress is a trigger for eczema.

The National Eczema Foundation cautions that emotional stress is one of the common triggers for eczema, although it is not known why. In some people, their eczema gets worse when they realize they’re stressed, while others get stressed because they have eczema and their flare-up worsens.

Note that this is not an all-inclusive list of the ways stress harms you. Research continues to uncover how untreated stress punishes the body and mind. If you’re plagued by chronic stress, find effective ways to cope with it. This may include getting professional help, although there are many approaches you can take on your own, including meditation, mindful walking, prioritizing tasks, deep breathing, guided imagery and more.

Related articles:

10 Tips for Less Stress During the Holidays

10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

10 Quick Ways to Beat Stress

My 10 Favorite Summertime Stress-Busters

5 Ways to Find Peace of Mind

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10 Ways Lies Hurt You

 

Photo by Matt Sclarandis/Unsplash

Photo by Matt Sclarandis/Unsplash

Who hasn’t told a lie from time to time? Maybe just a half-truth, but still a falsehood? Whether you’ve learned from experience that lying gets you ahead or destroys what you thought you had, lying will always have a profound effect. What you may not realize, however, is just how negatively lies and lying are. Here’s a look at 10 ways lies hurt you.

  1. The more you lie, the easier it gets.

Like a sled rocketing down an icy slope, repeated lies begin to spew out of your mouth without any effort. You’ve gotten away with it, suffered no ill consequences and have no governor on your tongue to keep your lying at bay. After a short time, it’s just easier to lie than tell the truth.

  1. The more you lie, the bigger the lies you tell.

What begins as a small lie never stays that way. One lie begets a slew of offspring, sometimes related, often just hanging around like ill-tempered friends. Think of a lie as a snowball, first small and accumulating in size as it rolls downhill. It’s also impossible to make a lie smaller once it’s begun to grow. Thus, the more lies you tell, the bigger they get.

  1. Lies destroy relationships.

No relationship can flourish on a foundation of lies. If you can’t rely upon a partner, loved one, close friend or co-worker to tell the truth, how can you put your trust in that person? When you know someone is a liar, it creates a chasm across which you’re increasingly reluctant to travel. In the wake of lies, relationships founder and fail or become quashed before they have a chance to begin.

  1. Lies trigger the release of stress hormones.

A lie isn’t just words that come out of the mouth. Precipitating the verbalization of the lie is a build-up of stress hormones. You get excited, releasing cortisol and readying you to combat the effects your lies might create. Long-term spikes in cortisol are bad for your health, creating a perfect stage for developing serious medical conditions.

  1. Lying uses a lot of negative physical and mental energy.

When you lie, you must constantly think of how to spin it, where there’s a nugget that others may cling to, how much they’ll be able to buy before beginning to question the veracity, how to keep others from finding out the truth. In short, it takes a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy to construct this negative and elaborate form of communication. That’s energy better spent doing positive things.

  1. Constant lying builds a false sense of reality.

It doesn’t take much time at all for you to begin to believe your own web of lies. In fact, the reality you inhabit is false. It just seems real to you. The more you lie, the more out of touch with reality your life becomes. You may not even recognize the truth anymore, let alone voice it – even to yourself.

  1. Lying creates a vicious cycle.

It’s often been said that once a lie is out of your mouth, there’s no putting it back. What’s also true is that lying sets into motion a vicious cycle. To exist, knowing that you’ve lied repeatedly, you must perpetuate the lie, rigidly adhere to it despite all proof to the contrary. Lying is a spiral that is nearly impossible to escape from.

  1. Lies are a way to avoid the pain of living.

Many people tell lies to mask the pain they feel in their lives. They don’t like that they have no or few friends, so they create imaginary friendships and boast of their connections. Pathological liars are all over social media, along with everyday fabricators who seek to maximize their made-up accomplishments to make them feel better about themselves and convince others of their superiority. This doesn’t work in the long run as constant lying is a sign of some serious deficit in the liar’s emotional well-being.

  1. You waste time covering your tracks.

While there’s much good you could be accomplishing in life, when you habitually lie, you’re going to miss out on opportunities because you spend so much time covering your tracks. This is time wasted, time you’ll never get back. It’s also increasingly impossible to cover the trail of lies you’ve told. Sooner or later, you’re going to get found out. Dreading that eventuality won’t make it go away.

  1. Lies extinguish hope and trust.

The accumulation of negativity because of lies has another life-altering effect: It destroys hope and trust. Not only is the liar incapable of trusting others or finding hope in any situation, he or she has drained all hope and trust in himself or herself. Life becomes bleak and dreary, indeed, when all there is to look forward to is a never-ending litany of lies.

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10 Tips for Less Stress During the Holidays

Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

If the sounds of Christmas carols playing in the malls make you cringe, it could be you’re letting the stress of the holidays get to you. With so much to do and so little time to get it done, this seemingly-innocuous musical reminder just adds more fuel to the fire. You’re primed and ready for these 10 tips for less stress during the holidays.

  1. You Don’t Have to Do Everything

Where is it written that you must be the poster person for everything done and everything right for the holidays? If you’ve assumed this mantle willingly, now’s the time to toss it aside. It’s impossible to be perfect, so why should you pursue perfection? The biggest hurdle for you to overcome is your own self-expectations. Tell yourself – and listen so it takes hold – that you don’t have to do everything. This is the first step to much less stress this holiday season.

  1. Know Your Own Limits

You might think you’ve got everything under control, even after you’ve told yourself that you don’t have to do it all, yet you still push yourself beyond what’s realistic. When you wind up haggard and exhausted at the end of the day, don’t look forward to tomorrow’s to-do list, start shortchanging your own well-being in a constant quest to do more, you’ve got to stop. Here is where you must know your own limits and never exceed them. You’ll be tempted, but don’t succumb.

  1. Make Your Boundaries Clear

If you haven’t let others know what you will and won’t do, you need to make your boundaries clear. Let them know it’s not OK to automatically expect you to host the big holiday dinner, just because you may have done so in the past. Times change, other responsibilities may take precedence, or it’s just not equitable, besides no longer being fun. Don’t think that others can guess what your boundaries are, however, because they can’t. Most won’t want to. You must tell them.

  1. Shop Online

The best thing that ever happened with holiday shopping, in my opinion, is the ability to easily, quickly and seamlessly do almost all of it online. Free shipping, discounts, extra gifts, suggestion lists, cash for purchasing via sites like eBates.com and TopCashBack.com are all excellent for easing this type of holiday stress.

  1. Watch What You Eat

Gobbling a sandwich on the run, skipping meals, eating unhealthy snacks and eating too much are all a recipe for increased stress, if not a serious medical condition. The human body requires nourishment, not junk food. Eat sensibly, in moderate portions, at the appropriate times and regularly. Not only will you have more energy, with good self-care you’ll be better equipped to deal with the stressors you’ll encounter during the holidays.

  1. Get Some Good Shut-Eye

Just as eating too much, too little or the wrong kind of food can increase your stress level, insufficient sleep is a huge contributor to added stress. It might be tough to get 8 hours of sleep each night, especially if you wait until the last minute to wrap presents, clean the house, launder the holiday linens and make sure all the decorations are in good shape, but this is one area you can’t afford to ignore. Remember the tip about knowing your limits and not trying to do everything? When it’s time to go to bed, go. You need your sleep.

  1. Steer Clear of Alcohol

Another big culprit in holiday stress is alcoholic consumption. One drink won’t kill you and probably is fine – unless you are in recovery, do crazy things with the slightest sip of alcohol, or some other reason – but keeping up with the party-hardy folks is just going to land you in a tight spot. Maybe literally, as in handcuffs from drinking and then driving. Just say no. Drink something festive and non-alcoholic. No one will care. And this is a safe choice that will cut down on your stress level as well.

  1. Begin (or End) Each Day with Something You Enjoy

If you want to have something to look forward to, begin or end each day with something you enjoy. Maybe that’s a massage from your partner, a specially-prepared latte, a hot bath or soothing shower, listening to your favorite album, taking a mindful walk outside, working in the garden. What it is matters less than you derive pleasure from doing it. The release of endorphins you get from doing something you enjoy will dramatically reduce your stress.

  1. Enlist Help and Make It Fun

Since there’s a finite amount of time and you only have so much energy to go around, one way that you can reduce your anxiety and stress during the holidays is to ask for help. If you also make it a fun activity, there’ll be less chance others will resent the request. Furthermore, if everyone pitches in, the task or project will get done that much quicker. Be sure to let others know you’ll reciprocate. It’s more than a grand gesture. It makes them even more willing to lend a hand.

  1. Cherish the Moments

Think about what it means to you to have your loved ones and family members to spend time with this holiday season. What you take for granted, others would gladly trade places to experience. Also, time goes by quickly. The moments you cherish and share now will be loving memories later. Love is a healing balm that can magically erase stress. Be open to it and soak up every minute with those you care about.

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Related articles:

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

How Your Memory Suffers with Poor REM Sleep

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

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10 Ways to Make Mondays Better

Photo by Albert Amor/Unsplash

Photo by Albert Amor/Unsplash

No matter what you do in life, you can’t escape Mondays. You can dread them, try to avoid them, delay the inevitable by coming up with all sorts of excuses not to do what you must, but Mondays will still arrive each week like clockwork. The best you can do is figure out how to embrace them. Here are 10 ways to make Mondays better that may change your mind about this day of the week.

1. Have something to look forward to when work is done.

Nothing motivates more than the prospect of doing something enjoyable after the workday is done. What that is doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you put it in your schedule. Having fun, spending time with loved ones and friends, working on a hobby, participating in sports or a recreational activity, engaging in an educational pursuit, shopping, writing or whatever gives you a positive endpoint to your Monday that puts a lift in your step and jazzes your spirit. Mondays may even turn out to be one of your favorite days of the week. If not that, at least they’ll be more pleasant.

2. Get to work early.

Sleeping in, trying to grab the last few winks, throwing the alarm clock or jangling cellphone across the room won’t do anything to make your Mondays better. What may give you a leg up, however, is becoming an early riser — getting your legs out of bed a little earlier than usual. Go for a half-hour ahead of your normal wake time. That’s sufficient to help you gather your thoughts, prepare for the day, allow for unexpected traffic, weather or last-minute family details and get to work ready to go. Stopping for your favorite latte along the way is another reason you might want to get up earlier.

3. Go big.

Many employees put off the tough and difficult tasks until they’re smack against a deadline or the boss is banging on their door looking for answers. Another way to make Mondays better that seems counter-intuitive is to charge ahead and tackle something you know is important and demands your full attention. While it causes you to work a little harder than you probably want to first thing Monday morning, the sense of accomplishment and progress you’ll feel be getting to it is a huge boost to your self-esteem, self-confidence and overall well-being. Besides, the boss will likely take notice, and that’s always good for raising your work profile.

4. Prepare with good self-care.

If you’ve made a practice of partying until all hours from Friday night on, chances are you are still hung over or feeling the effects of such disdain for your well-being. You can turn this around by instituting good self-care. In addition to getting sufficient rest (forget the three hours of sleep; go for 8 hours), eating well-balanced meals (and no late-night snacking), cutting down on alcohol and curbing smoking, find other ways to relax, restore and rejuvenate. These include meditation, yoga or Pilates, walks in nature, listening to calming music, self-reflection and prayer. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. Greeting Mondays with a healthy body-mind-spirit makes the day so much better.

5. Map out time chunks.

Instead of looking at your to-do list with a grim demeanor and a sinking feeling that you’ll never get it all done, try this: map out time chunks. For example, if you have a report that’s due tomorrow, allocate one to 1-1/2 hours or so to work on it today. If it’s something critical, move everything else aside until you get it done. Set aside a half hour to tend to emails at a scheduled time, not whenever they come in. If you must answer emails from your boss, give them a priority with an alert. The point is to arrange your day in time chunks. This provides a sense of order and a schedule you can easily follow.

6. Craft a plan.

For any project or task, your best approach is to craft a plan. How will you arrive at the result you’re looking for – or that someone else demands? What resources do you need? Will you need the assistance of others? Are some elements missing? How will these items affect timing or delivery? With well-crafted plans, you’ll boost your self-confidence, knowing that you’ve taken variables into consideration and have a workable approach to pursue.

7. Take mini-breaks.

You can’t go breakneck speed without a break, not unless you want to risk crashing to a dead stop along the way. Exhaustion, physical or mental, work stress, tension, irritability, anger, disappointment and other negative effects from working nonstop will take their toll. Ward them off by the simple and quick practice of taking mini breaks throughout the day. Walk to the water fountain on the next floor. Get up and stretch. Do isometric exercises. Close your eyes and meditate. Take the stairs to your next meeting instead of the elevator. Whenever possible, walk outside instead of within the building so you get some fresh air and a different perspective.

8. Go somewhere different for lunch.

Like having something to look forward to at the end of the workday is the idea of going somewhere different for lunch. If you always brown bag it at your desk, go to a park or somewhere in your work complex to eat. If you go out for lunch only on Wednesday or Friday, switch to Monday to give your first work week day a changeup. Not only will this brighten your day, it will make it speed by.

9. Skip coffee and go for a walk.

Coffee may be a workday staple, but it doesn’t have to be a boring routine you’re locked into. For one of those times you’re headed to the coffee room or vending machine, skip the brew and indulge yourself with a brisk 10-minute walk. Outside is best, but even a walk in the building will suffice. You’re getting up and moving, always good for mental stimulation and physical exercise.

10. Celebrate all the things you accomplish.

While you’re busy working on Mondays, be sure to take the time to celebrate all the things you accomplish today. It may seem like a trivial thing, but giving yourself credit for your hard work is important to your sense of completion, tending to your responsibilities, seeing the fruit of your labors, and making progress. It also helps make Mondays better. What better way to start the work week than with a string of accomplishments?

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Related articles:

10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

5 Tips on How to Make Plans

Time-Saving Tips for Early Risers

How Do You Get Ready for the Day?

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

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To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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