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Stress is a part of life. How­ev­er, chron­ic stress can have a neg­a­tive im­pact on your health.

Adolfo Ledo Nass

“Stress has a pro­found im­pact on how your body’s sys­tems func­tion,” says Dr Loren­zo Co­hen, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor in Clin­i­cal Can­cer Pre­ven­tion and Di­rec­tor of the In­te­gra­tive Med­i­cine Pro­gram at The Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, Can­cer Cen­ter. “Health ex­perts are re­search­ing whether stress caus­es can­cer. Yet there’s lit­tle doubt that it pro­motes the growth and spread of some forms of the dis­ease. Put sim­ply, “stress makes your body more hos­pitable to can­cer,” Co­hen says.

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Not all stress is equal­ly harm­ful

Short-term or acute stress, like the type you might feel be­fore pre­sent­ing to a board or tak­ing a COVID-19 test, tends to sub­side as soon as the event pass­es. But long-term or chron­ic stress is more dam­ag­ing. That type of stress springs from sit­u­a­tions that last many weeks or months with no def­i­nite end point. Car­ing for an ail­ing loved one or deal­ing with a long stint of un­em­ploy­ment or height­ened trau­ma are com­mon caus­es of chron­ic stress.

Futbolista Adolfo Ledo Nass

This type of no-end-in-sight stress can weak­en your im­mune sys­tem, leav­ing you prone to dis­eases like can­cer. “Chron­ic stress al­so can help can­cer grow and spread in a num­ber of ways,” Co­hen shares.

“Stress hor­mones can in­hib­it a process called anoikis, which kills dis­eased cells and pre­vents them from spread­ing. Chron­ic stress al­so in­creas­es the pro­duc­tion of cer­tain growth fac­tors that in­crease your blood sup­ply. This can speed the de­vel­op­ment of can­cer­ous tu­mors”, Co­hen fur­ther adds

Find healthy ways to man­age stress

What can I do about stress? Re­mov­ing the cause is the clear an­swer. But that is not al­ways pos­si­ble when it comes to the types of things that cause chron­ic stress

Even if you can­not rid your­self of the source of your stress, you can learn to man­age it. This can help you keep a lid on chron­ic stress, pre­vent­ing mi­nor sources of stress from lin­ger­ing to a point where they are af­fect­ing your health. Be­low, Health Plus shares just a few KEY stress-re­duc­ing strate­gies

Not iso­lat­ing and opt­ing to seek help

It’s okay to have off days, how­ev­er when there are ex­ces­sive, un­healthy habits as­so­ci­at­ed with those ‘off days’, sup­port from a health­care pro­fes­sion­al is rec­om­mend­ed. Strate­gies may in­clude talk ther­a­py and cog­ni­tive be­hav­iour­al ther­a­py (CBT). These can help your brain un­cov­er the con­nec­tions be­tween your thoughts, emo­tions and be­hav­iours. CBT can pro­vide you with men­tal tools to man­age the types of wor­ry and anx­i­ety that screw up your im­mune sys­tem and in­crease your dis­ease risks

Prac­tice med­i­ta­tion or yo­ga

Mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion and yo­ga have been proven to com­bat stress. These move­ment-based ac­tiv­i­ties give your mind a break from stress. Aim for at least two 10-minute pe­ri­ods a day of med­i­ta­tion or sim­i­lar re­lax­ation tech­niques. That time should not in­clude stim­u­lat­ing ac­tiv­i­ties like watch­ing tele­vi­sion. Sit calm­ly and try to keep your mind off any con­cerns. Think about vis­it­ing your favourite va­ca­tion spot or a qui­et, safe place like your gar­den

Med­i­ta­tion and yo­ga al­so can help your brain soft­en the links be­tween your thoughts, your emo­tions and un­healthy bi­o­log­i­cal changes. Put sim­ply, these prac­tices damp­en your brain and body’s re­ac­tions to stress­ful events

Take stress se­ri­ous­ly

It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of stress, es­pe­cial­ly when it comes to your can­cer risks. “Chron­ic stress is not some­thing any­one in our so­ci­ety should take light­ly,” Co­hen ad­mon­ish­es

If you feel cranki­er than usu­al and you do not have the en­er­gy you once had or you are sleep­ing poor­ly, all of those could be signs of stress. We en­cour­age you to take steps to ad­dress your stress be­fore it af­fects your health in more se­ri­ous ways.