Health risks increase when you worry too much

IF YOU do only one thing to improve your health this year, make it getting on top of stress.

Without sure-coping strategies, most of us are poor managers of overwork, fatigue, conflict, traffic congestion, or any number of things that make us feel stressed.

High stress levels are associated with a greater risk of depression, heart disease and infectious diseases including the common cold.

Research by Carnegie Mellon University suggested that prolonged stress altered the effectiveness of the stress hormone cortisol to regulate the inflammation, which in turn led to some illness.

In fact, those who experience intense and long-term stress can have digestive problems, fertility problems, urinary problems, and a weakened immune system.

They are also more prone to viral infections such as the flu or common cold and headaches, sleep trouble, depression, and anxiety.

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Now new research from Concordia University shows that how you think about stress may actually help determine your immune response.

Results show cortisol tends to be more stable in those with more positive personalities.

The study was published in the American Psychological Association's Health Psychology journal.

While it can be difficult to change our way of thinking or, indeed, our personality, regular deep relaxation can be an antidote to stress, says psychotherapist Shirley Hughes.

Some ways to relax fully include meditation, or listening to a relaxation or meditation CD.

You can also go for a walk in nature, do yoga or tai chi, enjoy arts, music or dancing, or take advantage of pet therapy and laughter.

Deep breathing is the first readily available resource to call on to help calm and relax us, according to Hughes.

She says prioritising time for yourself, even if it is only 30 minutes a day when you can tune out and turn off, will pay long-term benefits.

Topics:  health heart disease mental health stress

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