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The effects of stress are many and varied and, it is now known, they are almost all entirely bad. Stress weakens the system, tears down the body and mind, and causes long-term health problems that have been documented in numerous studies and reports. Thus, stress is ultimately a bad thing that should be avoided. By keeping stress away, you can help ensure a lifetime of health and keep yourself from overloading your body and mind.
Of all the effects of stress, first and foremost is the “fight or flight” response that it brings to your body. As soon as stress hits, the body starts churning out the hormones that set your body on edge and ready it to either fight or run. Obviously, this is pretty pointless when the stress is how you are going to get your report into the boss on time, but it is still there. Your mind only knows that it is under the gun and threatened and it has the same response for workplace stress as it does for a tiger coming at you. The human body and mind is still designed with physical danger in mind and any stress is taken to be a physical threat. Thus, the body begins churning out these hormones as though you were about to be set upon by a pack of wolves.
What does the fight or flight response do? First, it sharpens the awareness and confuses the mind. Of all the effects of stress, this seems the most contradictory. However, it is also true. The body pumps in adrenaline, which heightens mental sharpness, and noradrenaline, which causes the mind to be confused. This is a bad thing because your mind is simultaneously receiving messages to stand up and fight while it receives messages to get the heck away from there. Thus, the mind is clouded with indecision and this will not help you focus on what you need to get done.
This response to stress also causes the heart to speed up in order to pump more blood. This rise in blood pressure allows the body to react stronger and more quickly in order to either fight or escape. Unfortunately, the stress of everyday life is not of the same sort as that of a person out in the wilderness and it tends to stick around longer than the threat of physical attack. Thus, what should be a short rise in blood pressure is actually dragged out over a long period of time, making the heart work way too hard for long periods. This causes a rise in blood pressure which can result in increased risk of stroke or heart attack in the long term.
Also, the effects of stress include the body’s tendency to break down white blood cells when it is stressed. Unfortunately, white blood cells are used to fight disease and breaking them down causes immune system depletion and makes people more vulnerable to disease. Thus, if you do not slow down, your body will be slowed down for you with a cold or a bout of the flu. This explains why many people tend to become ill when they are under pressure for long periods of time.
Finally, the body bumps up the production of platelets in order to help seal wounds one might receive from a physical attack. However, you are not going to receive wounds working in the office late — paper cuts excepted — and thus these platelets are not really doing anything productive. However, what platelets will do is stick to the sides of your blood vessels and cause blockages. This means an increased risk for stroke or heart attack in the long term if you are stressed too much or too often. Of all the effects of stress, this can be the most dangerous; especially in older folks who are more susceptible to heart attack and stroke.
The effects of stress are many, but they are almost universally dangerous. Thus, you need to manage your stress in order to keep your body healthy for a long time. So take care of yourself by keeping your mind uncluttered with stress and one of the more dire effects of stress will not happen to you.