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What’s Killing You This Week: Chronic Stress

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Disclaimer: Reading this article may lead to serious side effects including increased stress levels, a super strain of the common cold, and in some cases, imminent doom.

It’s well known that chronic stress can lead to long-term illnesses like gastrointestinal upset and heart disease, but according to a new study, people who live in constantly taxing situations with little opportunity to relax are more likely to have enhanced reactions to illnesses, even something as mundane as the common cold. Why? When you freak out on a regular basis, your body develops a resistance to cortisol, a stress hormone that keeps your inflammatory response to infection nice and strong.

Essentially, you need to stop caring about things or you will keep getting sick, probably lose your job from all the time you need to take off, have to spend your unemployment compensation on nasal spray and antibiotics rather than food, lose all your friends because you will adopt the life of a recluse in fear of germ exposure, and eventually kick the bucket in the discomfort of your trailer.

Sounds like a pretty pitiful existence, right? Don’t worry, stress cases; there is hope. You simply have to find ways to manage your worries so that juggling a fifty-hour workweek with three children constantly screaming about their broccoli disdain doesn’t smother you.

For one, find a way to unwind every day. Something like indulging in some chocolate (but not too much or you might stress out about how much weight you’ve gained), punching pillows (but not too hard or else you might panic upon realizing that you destroyed them and now must replace them), or treat yourself to something nice (but don’t spend too much money or else you might start fretting over your budget).

Secondly, stop worrying about other people; it’s okay to be self-centered every once and a while. It’s not your fault that your husband left his briefcase at home and doesn’t have time to go get it before his big presentation. That’s his problem, not yours! Instead, use the time in which you would frantically be driving across the city to deliver said briefcase to meditate or take a warm bubble bath while listening to Enya.

Lastly, simplify your life. If you feel like you have a bustling, demanding life, well, you probably do. But you make it that way. Quit your six-figure job and get a position as a florist. Cut down on events that clutter your free time. Do you really need to go to your best friend’s brother’s girlfriend’s graduation? No, just skip it. You get the idea.

The moral of the story? A completely stress-free life is impossible, but it’s a good idea to find ways to lessen the stress so you don’t end up a sickly hermit and die.

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