Late singer-songwriter Warren Zevon once wryly sang, “Life’ll kill ya.” And was he ever correct! The list of things that can end your life is so large that it’s easier to number the things that can’t kill you. The most insidious of things that can kill you, however, is your own mind.
The everyday stress you experience can build into all-consuming anxiety that shaves years, even decades, off your life if you aren’t careful! But how?
Stress Hurts Your Mind
Stress reduces your ability to think carefully, giving you a sense of impending doom. Too much anxiety from stress can lead to panic attacks, which not only have mental effects but also physical effects. And too much stress and anxiety can lead to constant irritability and depression if unmitigated.
Anxiety Leads to Headaches
Being under constant stress prevents the body from sitting at rest. So, the teeth constantly remain gritted, the tongue constantly remains at the roof of the mouth, and this contributes to headaches.
Stress and Anxiety lead to Cardiovascular Problems
You will naturally breathe harder and heavier when you’re under stress. Your body is trying to prep itself for a fight or flight situation. And, since so few of the situations that you will face in the modern world require either of those responses, you have no way to resolve the stress, and you keep breathing harder than you should.
This will lead to your heart beating too fast, and to your breath being too rapid and shallow for too long. As that continues for an extended period of time, you will set yourself up for future heart attacks and lung problems.
Stress and Anxiety Hurt Your Stomach
That fight or flight response reduces many of the ancillary activities your body does without thinking about it, like digestion. A body that’s running from a tiger, for example, does not need to digest anything, because that’ll slow down the body.
If you’re constantly stressed, your body won’t realize that it can safely digest, and you’ll get stomach pains, which can lead to temporary things like nausea and diarrhea, and long-term stomach issues down the line.
Stress and Anxiety Lead to Blood Pressure Issues
Stress and anxiety cause blood vessels to constrict, which results in raised blood pressure. This is great whenever you need to fight off a tiger, but is devastating if you’re under low-level, tiger-free stress throughout the day.
This increased blood pressure can lead to many of the above issues, as well as muscle aches and libido issues.
All of the above issues lead to you having a raised blood pressure. And, because high blood pressure is linked to so many health issues, your body’s defense against tigers (namely, its stress reactions) will lead to health issues and premature death.
How to Fight Stress and Anxiety
So, assuming you don’t want to die prematurely due to stress, you likely want to prevent as much stress as possible. You will deal with stress, but effective stress and anxiety support will give you the best chance to handle your own personal tigers.
First, do as much as you can to prevent unnecessary stress down the line (prepare your meals for the week on Sunday, fill your car with gas before the weekend ends, make sure your clothes are ready for the week as a few examples).
Whenever stress hits you, take stock of your body, and try to resist the physical responses that your body will have (relax your muscles, unclench your jaw, remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth, relax your shoulders).
And, to give you a better chance of being ready for anything, manage your diet and exercise regimen. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits (the antioxidants will have an added bonus of helping to fight the heart issues you may get from fighting too many tigers).
Exercise at least three days a week, possibly throwing in some bodyweight exercises. Consider taking a natural supplement for stress management. And, of course, drink more water and less soda when possible.
One Last Tiger, and Summary
Your body’s stress reaction was necessary for the days when we had to constantly fight cougars (because tigers aren’t the only big cats that could kill you). But now, it is more frequently a liability. So, instead of letting yourself sink to stress, fight against that stress.