It turns out that we may have been thinking about things backwards.
We all know that we live in a high-stress world, and that stress can harm our health. We've also probably heard about ways that we can manage stressful feelings. If we manage the feelings, conventional wisdom suggests that we can lessen the stress reaction, and reduce the health consequences.
Recent evidence, however, suggests that those feelings are actually the RESULT of inflammatory changes provoked by chronic stress that we may not notice at all.
So, by the time you feel "stressed", your body is probably already suffering the consequences of inflammation.
Three types of emotional experiences, in particular, have been linked to a physical marker for inflammation called C-reactive protein (CRP):
1) Depression — The recent review found that inflammation predicted depression in men more than women. A smaller, earlier study also related depressive symptoms to increased inflammation, but did not differentiate between men and women.
2) Job stress — Job stress and burnout (related to overcommitment and low reward in proportion to effort) has been linked to inflammation.
3) Anger and Hostility — Anger and Hostility are linked to higher CRP, and may be caused by an an excess of a particular stress hormone, norepinephrine.
Remember Smoky the Bear? His motto was "Only you can prevent forest fires".
Inflammation, like forest fires, is a continual risk. In our stress-promoting society, the conditions are always right. We don't need to wait for physical or emotional symptoms to address it. Wise self-care can prevent or reduce inflammation before it begins.
If you are already suffering inflammatory symptoms, put the fire out early! There are a number of self-care practices that reduce stress and inflammation. For more information see my blog: 7 Ways to Reduce Your Inflammation Number Without Medication.
What about you? How have your feelings helped you to manage your self-care? Please share your wisdom with us below!