It’s peak allergy season, we’re still dealing with the fallout of a respiratory illness that caused a pandemic, and breathing is on everyone’s mind. Many people, though, aren’t aware of the connection between chronic stress and respiratory health.
The highly qualified expert providers at Apex Medical Center treat numerous types of respiratory problems, including asthma and allergies, and through providing primary care such as treating infections and viruses that affect your respiratory system. Even if you have a healthy respiratory system, if you have chronic stress, you’re at a higher risk of developing respiratory issues.
Stress, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, if you’re in an immediately stressful situation, such as an auto accident, short-term stress can be beneficial. Biologically, your physical response to stress evolved to protect you in such situations. Your distant ancestors may have needed to escape from a saber tooth tiger and stress helped; you may just need to be able to focus well enough to fill out accident reports — but stress can still help you.
It’s when your body is under constant stress, day in and day out, that things become dangerous. Your fight or flight response causes the production of certain hormones that can be helpful in the short-term, but that are detrimental to your overall health in the long term. For example, cortisol is a hormone that your body releases to help you deal with a stressful situation, but it can cause weight gain and other problems when you have chronic stress.
When you’re in a stressful situation, one thing that is impacted is your breathing. You take faster breaths, and they are not as deep as usual. Think of hyperventilation — chronic stress produces a similar effect, but not quite as dramatic.
Along with faster, shallower breathing, your heart rate speeds up and your airways expand so you can get more oxygen. This is not bad if you need to run away from a tiger, but if you need to navigate traffic, pay bills, take care of your children, and get dinner on the table day after day, it can be problematic.
If you have asthma, COPD, or another chronic respiratory issue, stress can cause flare ups, which may be life-threatening. When you try to breathe deeply, and your respiratory system is inflamed, you can’t get the air you need.
Under stress, your body demands increased oxygen; yet, with a chronic lung condition, you can’t get it. That may very likely cause you to feel panicked, increasing your stress reaction, and creating a negative spiral.
If you have a chronic respiratory illness, controlling chronic stress is imperative.
It’s all very well for a healthcare provider to say “You need to reduce your stress levels,” but it’s much different to actually try to apply that advice to your life. After all, you have obligations and priorities. How are you supposed to lower your stress levels and still be productive in modern society?
First, acknowledge that you have chronic stress, and begin looking for ways to reduce it. Everyone is different, but a few possible steps you can take include:
If you’re concerned about your respiratory health, or if you know that you live with chronic stress, schedule an appointment at Apex Medical Center. Our experts are here to help and are happy to answer your questions.