Chronic stress makes for complex plot lines and great acting. Take Jack Lemmon in 1973's film "Save the Tiger," or Anne Hathaway in "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006). Their characters’ stress-plagued lives and resulting meltdowns made cinematic history.
But off the screen, that kind of relentless tension makes trouble, not careers.
It's long been known that chronic stress can lead to everything from depression and heart disease to gastrointestinal problems and dementia. New research shows how it is linked with the development and progression of cancer.
A study published in the journal Cell Reports found that stress causes cellular and receptor changes that allow the stress hormone norepinephrine to suppress your immune system and give cancer a clear shot to take hold and grow.
Fortunately, you do have control over your stress response. For long-term immune strength and reduced risk of cancer, try these strategies:
• Practice forgiveness. Johns Hopkins Medicine says that making a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings is a powerful stress-reducer. "As you release the anger, resentment, and hostility, you begin to feel empathy," says Dr. Karen Swartz, director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic. Then you gain health-promoting peace and happiness.
• Do aerobic exercise. Physical activity immediately reduces levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Aim for 30-60 minutes most days.
• Make smart food choices. Tamp down stress-fueling inflammation by eating whole, unprocessed, sugar-free, high-fiber foods.
• Improve sleep habits. Maintain a consistent bedtime, ditch digital devices for an hour before you hit the hay, and make the room dark, cool, and quiet.