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Do holidays stress you out? If you answer yes, you are not alone. A Lawrence Journal World & News poll found 36 percent of people said the added social, financial and physical pressures that often accompany the holidays put them on the edge of a meltdown. Sure, stress is part of life, but learning to manage your stress not only makes those extended family get-togethers more enjoyable in the short-term, it could keep you healthy long term, too.
The body responds to stress by releasing "stress hormones", such as epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) and cortisol, to help a person react to a situation with more speed and strength. Stress hormones increase blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar levels.
While small amounts of stress are believed to be beneficial, chronic high-level stress is harmful, leading to various illnesses or unhealthy behaviors (like gagging little Johnny if he does his high-pitched shriek one more time inside your house.)
Chronic stress doesn't just make people snap, it's been linked with a host of health problems from losing your hair and tooth and gum disease to ulcers, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and hyperthyroidism, depression—and even some cancers.
According to the National Cancer Institute, studies done over the past 30 years looking at the relationship stress plays in increasing a person’s cancer risk have produced conflicting results.
While some studies found a link between psychological factors and an increased risk of developing cancer, a direct cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven. However, some studies have found an indirect relationship between stress and certain types of virus-related tumors, such as Kaposi sarcoma and some lymphomas. Researchers suspect chronic stress weakens a person’s immune system, which may affect the incidence of these types of cancers.
More recent animal research suggests that the body’s neuroendocrine response—the releasing of hormones into the blood in reaction to nervous system stimulation—can directly alter important processes in cells that help protect against the formation of cancer, such as DNA repair and the regulation of cell growth.