Sorry; you don't get an award for soldiering on.
Many of us, especially young people, don't realize how precious our health truly is. When you're young, if you get sick, you can bounce back quickly and you rarely put health on the list of priorities. But when you get diagnosed with a chronic illness or you don't recover as quickly as you used to, you start to realize that you should have taken better care of yourself. You should have been aware of the things you were doing that were putting a strain on your body.
Activities that seem so inconsequential can be incredibly damaging to your body. When you go to work even though you have the flu, or when you're so stressed out that you can't sleep, these things compromise your health. And if you don't take them seriously, they will get worse until you're forced to notice them.
But the damage may have already been done.
You don't get an award for soldiering on or for ignoring the signs that you need to slow down, decompress and take better care of yourself. You aren't admitting weakness if you ask for help or cut back on certain activities.
What are some easily ignored conditions that can lead to big health issues?
1. You function with high stress levels.
When we're constantly in stress mode, our body can trigger a fight or flight response, even if there's nothing threatening our survival. This response is automatic, though it's not always accurate. When your body thinks there's a threat, your autonomic nervous system will automatically put your body on alert.
The adrenal cortex will release stress hormones, the heart will beat harder and faster, and your blood pressure will rise. Cortisol, the body's main stress hormone, will increase blood sugar and slow down nonessential functions (digestive and reproductive systems). When high levels of adrenaline and cortisol are continuously in our bodies, things start to break down and we can have digestive problems, sleep disorders, and even heart disease.
2. You suffer from adrenal fatigue, or the inability to handle stress.
There are those who power through stress and those who just can't do it. Adrenal fatigue is a condition that many people don't take seriously. Common symptoms include difficulty getting up each day (even after a long sleep), always being tired, having salty food cravings, higher energy levels in the evening and a weakened immune system.
Less common symptoms may include allergies, asthma, dizziness, dry skin, joint pain, low blood pressure, low sex drive, lower back pain, poor circulation, and weight gain. If you think you may have adrenal fatigue, you should see a doctor and be prepared to make some lifestyle changes so you can eliminate as much stress from your life as possible.
3. You fail to recognize chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is our body's way of responding to injury or infection. However, too much stress, as well as diet and lifestyle factors, can contribute to chronic low-level, whole-body inflammation. And this type of inflammation can lead to heart disease, cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer's.
A study from Carnegie Mellon University found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response.
"Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control," said the study's lead researcher, Sheldon Cohen.
4. You silently struggle with anxiety or depression.
Although things have gotten better, there still seems to be a stigma against admitting that you're dealing with anxiety or depression. Writer Serge Bielanko says, "These are stoic times we live in, no? My entire life has been twisted, manipulated and influenced by so many people who refused to let feelings or love or emotion get in the way of their heinous plight to remain strong in the face of adversity. And I've done the same damn thing."
When we don't feel what we need to feel, or acknowledge what we're dealing with, these conditions can worsen, lead to thoughts of suicide, and make other medical conditions more difficult to treat.
Be aware how you're feeling and what's going on with your body. You don't need to "hang in there" or "suck it up." Instead, practice self-care by getting help when you need it, removing as much stress from your life as possible, and being compassionate with yourself. Do these things before you're forced to.