Why you have to fight stress

I love my husband — usually. However, when I am at my most crazed, he likes to throw out a seemingly harmless, “Don’t stress. It will all get done.” It is at these moments that I must fight the urge to smack him upside the head with the dirty cleat I just found on the dining room table. “Yes, darling. You’re right. It will all get done … BECAUSE I AM GOING TO DO IT.”
My over-scheduled kids will get to their practices and games almost on time. They will have fairly clean uniforms. Their homework will not suffer. It is game time people. Time to pick up the pace and throw caution to the wind. Time to ignore all the signs and signals your body is sending you and get the damn job done. But, while you are busy with your chauffeuring and chaperoning duties, your health is suffering. Just so you are aware, here are some dangerous side effects of stress. Maybe they should serve Valium at the parent-run snack bars.

1. Stress increases your risk of infection – stress can suppress your immune system making you more susceptible to everything from the common cold and the flu to intestinal illness and skin infections. Do you find yourself saying often, “I just keep getting sick”? You are probably blaming the germy people (especially little people) that surround you.  Actually, you should point the finger at the stress all “your peeps” (again, especially the little ones) are putting on you.  If you aren’t a parent or a teacher … same story.  Big people can cause you stress, too.

2Cardiovascular disease – increased heart rate and increased blood pressure equals increased risk of heart attack and stroke.  You know what and/or who gets your heart racing. Avoid these stressors when you can.

3. Decreased sex drive – speaking of your heart racing … Stress has been shown to decrease you libido and this is bad on at least two levels.  1 – obviously you are having less sex.  2 – there is some decent evidence that the more sex you have, the longer you live.

4. Depression – extended periods of unattended-to, repressed stress can significantly increase your risk of becoming clinically depressed.  It, of course, stands to reason that if you have more stressors, you will be less happy.  But, we are talking here about real, cannot snap out of it, need-professional-help sadness.

5. Increased risk of cancer? – I add the question mark because the jury is still out on this one.  There are some experts who believe stress decreases your body’s ability to self-regulate, i.e. control wayward cells before they become cancerous.   Most studies have been done with breast cancer patients, and the clinical evidence is not great.  There is, however, better agreement among experts that stress decreases the body’s ability to fight cancer once it has taken hold.

So, bottom line – stress BAD.  You already know this but perhaps being reminded of just how formidable and dangerous stress can be, will help you help yourself and do theunthinkable … RELAX – it is good for your health. Remember too, for a suburban parent, carpools are a gift from … the people who make SUVs. Call on a friend. We are all in this together.


How Much Sex is Everyone Really Having?

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, founder and president of Tips From Town. She loves combining all she learned as a doctor with all she continues to learn as a mom of five to bring you interesting, useful and fun information on the Family Pages.