By: Sarah Klein Senior Editor, Health & Fitness; Certified Personal Trainer
But while it feels good to conquer the day, in the end, it just simply feels better — and is more beneficial to your health — to relax.
Some would argue that stress is our biggest health concern, given that it has been linked to so many other complications, from heart problems to dementia. CBS reported on a small study that examined the role of stress in seizures — and found that people are often misdiagnosed with epilepsy, when learning helpful relaxation and coping techniques may be a better solution.
You may still end up racing to meet deadlines at work today, or handling a stressful personal crisis — life goes on, no matter what kind of day it is. But relaxing whenever possible, and in whatever way works for you (whether it’s reading a book, taking a walk, meditating, running, you name it!) is healthier for you than you might think. Check out the health benefits of relaxation below.
Relaxing protects your heart.
While researchers aren’t sure exactly why, the research is unanimously in favor of relaxation for your heart’s sake. “There are studies to show that stress is comparable to other risk factors that we traditionally think of as major, like hypertension, poor diet and lack of exercise,” Kathi Heffner, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the Rochester Center for Mind-Body Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, told .
Intense, sudden periods of stress or shock, like a breakup or even winning the lottery, can trigger such a rush of adrenaline that the heart can’t function properly, resulting in heart failure or heart attack-like symptoms. In the case of a breakup or death of a loved one, this has become known as broken heart syndrome.
Relaxing lowers your risk of catching a cold.
His more recent research has tried to figure out why, and results seem to point to inflammation. It appears that stress hampers the body’s ability to fight inflammation, by making immune cells less sensitive to the hormone that “turns off” inflammation, HealthyDay reported.
Relaxing boosts your memory.
A number of studies have also found that stress increases the amount of certain proteins in the brain that have been linked to Alzheimer’s, possibly accelerating the development of the disease.
Relaxing lowers your stroke risk.
A 2011 study examined the specific effects of work-related stress, and found that among middle- and upper-class men, psychological stress caused about 10 percent of strokes.
Relaxing keeps you safe from depression.
In humans, the prolonged presence of stress hormone cortisol can reduce levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are linked to depression.
Stress is also likely to exacerbate mood problems in people with a history of depression or bipolar disorder, and could trigger relapse.
Relaxing helps you make better decisions.
Counterintuitively, stressed-out people actually tend to focus on the positive, and may ignore the cons of the decision they’re about to make, one of the study’s authors, Mara Mather Ph.D., a professor of gerontology and psychology at the University of Southern California, said in a statement.
That may also help explain why alcoholics crave a drink more when they’re under pressure. “The compulsion to get that reward comes stronger and they’re less able to resist it,” Mather said.
Relaxing keeps you slim.
Relaxing eases acne.
Flare-ups of other skin problems, like psoriasis, have also been linked to stress, and can be equally stressful themselves. But relaxing really helps: A 1998 study found that psoriasis plaques cleared up more quickly in people who regularly meditated.