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Can stress shorten your lifespan?

That’s the question on a lot of people’s minds these days.

No wonder…Stress now ranks among the top factors that contribute to illness, and interfere with or slow down recovery for many people.
The consequences of stress can be devastating…
What most people don’t know is that, in the body, stress was never intended to be a long-term condition. Stress was originally intended as a measure to react in “fight or flight” conditions – in other words, life threatening or dangerous situations. As such, when illness or events cause stress, your body starts diverting all possible resources to a few basic organs (which might be needed), to prepare you to either flee or fight for survival.

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In your body, the response was never intended to last for a long period, since usually the “fight or flight” situation would be resolved – either way – within a matter of minutes. By design, once the “danger” is resolved, everything in your body is supposed to return to normal again within a few minutes (provided you are still alive!) but during that time you need to be able to perform at abnormal levels.

One of these “temporary priority changes” stress provides, is the redistribution of water in your body. Water is temporarily diverted from a number of organs to offer ample supply to muscles and lungs. Additionally, to make sure that you have an ample supply for as long as is needed, water is also withdrawn from the lower back region – which explains why many people suffering from chronic stress will also complain about chronic back pain. (Interesting right?).

There are a number of things to keep in mind when dealing with stress:

>>In many cases, stress is a matter of choice. While it is true that our attitudes determine how we react to stressful situations, it is also true often we create unnecessary stress, or allow others to stress us out. How much stress you experience will partly be a matter of character, and partly a matter of choice. Some things are worth stressing about, and some are not – analyze your unique situation, and decide for yourself.

>>Stress is (often) created from being disorganized. If you are not able to discern between what is urgent and what is important, and treat both the same way, you will be creating stress for yourself. Urgent things need to be taken care of as soon as possible, but in as short a time as possible. Important things need to be scheduled, and have the proper amount of time devoted to them.

>>Many people simply have to live with huge amounts of stress – some of it might be due to their careers, and some of it might be due to circumstance or the environment. If your stress originates from a source you cannot change, find a way to deal with it. Explore different stress-reducing activities, and see what works for you. For some people it is better to indulge in physical activity, and for others it is better to engage in relaxing tasks or hobbies.

Stress is a very real threat to your longevity – so make a point of keeping it down to the absolute minimum. In the end, only you can make the changes necessary for your health and well-being.

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