is protective for your heart. Relaxation naturally decreases your
heart rate, blood pressure, and the stress on the heart. Excesses of stress can
do the opposite. Too much stress can increase the risk of heart disease by
increasing blood pressure and heart rate, making the heart prone to heart
attacks and other heart disorders. When you allow yourself to relax, you can
actually protect your heart from diseases that are promoted by excess stress. No
one knows exactly how stress damages your heart but things like increased blood
pressure, increased catecholamine’s, and increased heart rate are believed to
be the major culprits. Even stressors that are considered positive stressors,
like getting married or having a baby, can increase the amount of
catecholamines in the body, resulting in damage to the heart. This is why it
pays to practice relaxation exercises on a regular basis.
decreases your risk of viral infections. Research out of the Carnegie
Mellon University has studied stress for the last 3 decades. They found that
people who are under chronic stress have an increased risk of viral infections,
particularly the common cold. During the research studies, the scientists found
that chronic stress (stress lasting at least a month) increased the risk of
catching the common cold by 100 percent. This means you have twice the risk of
coming down with a viral infection when under stress. Since then, the
researchers have found that inflammation appears to be the reason why we are so
susceptible to viral infections in the presence of stress. Stress seems to
interfere with the body’s ability to counteract inflammation so that the immune
system is less sensitive to the hormones that decrease the level of inflammation
in the body.
increases your ability to memorize things. Studies have been done in
mice under chronic stress and found that chronic stress interfered with the
functioning of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is that part of the
brain we use to engage in cognition, abstract thought, and recognizing social
cues. Other research in mice showed that brief episodes of stress blocked those
parts of the brain responsible for learning and the ability to memorize things.
In these studies, mice were exposed to stress and were placed in mazes. Those
mice under the most stress did more poorly than mice who were not under stress.
While this was a study in mice, there is every reason to believe that humans
under stress would have the same reaction. Relaxation can counteract this
negative effect of stress and can help you memorize things to a greater degree.
Human studies on stress have indicated that the proteins associated with
Alzheimer’s disease are increased in the face of stress. This means that stress
could be one reason why people develop the disease or why the disease
progresses so rapidly in people who already have the disease.
decreases the risk of stroke. A study out of the University of
Cambridge in 2007 showed that people who had an increased ability to cope with
stress had a risk of stroke that was about 25 percent less than those people
who were under stress and couldn’t cope with their stressors. Another study
from 2011 showed that stress related to one’s work increased the risk of stroke
by 10 percent. Relaxation and relaxation exercises might be able to counteract
the effects of stress on the body’s risk of developing a stroke.
has a positive effect on your weight. Increased stress naturally leads
people toward eating a poor diet that is high in calories, fat, and sugar. This
increases one’s weight and adversely affects one’s self-esteem. Relaxation
leads to better food choices and eating a diet that lends itself toward having
a normal weight.
can curb cravings. People under stress release cortisol, which increases
cravings and ultimately can increase your weight. Cortisol is released under
situations of excess stress and the foods we choose while under stress tend to
be higher in fat and sugar. Cortisol is believed to bind to those receptors in
the brain that regulate the amount and type of food we crave. Those people who
already are overweight may be more prone to increased cravings while under