2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

How Stress Shortens Your Life (And What To Do About It)

Click here for the Health Tip link.

If you’ve ever been curious about how your body “feels” when challenged by relentless stress, consider this experiment. Obviously, I don’t recommend you try it. Like the car ads on TV say, “Do not attempt this. A professional is driving a closed course.” I’m asking you to think about it as a good example of what your body experiences during nonstop stress.

One day, instead of eating anything for breakfast, order Starbuck’s largest latte with three extra espresso shots. Have another as your midmorning snack and another for lunch, midafternoon snack, dinner, and nightcap. Limit your food intake to a bagful of Mrs. Field’s cookies. Feel your jaw clenching? Mind racing? Hands trembling?

This is your body under the yoke of chronic stress. The caffeine acts pretty much like your body’s stress hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine.

A different matter altogether is your body’s response to a single episode of stress, like being attacked by a mugger. You and your fellow mammals (such as a deer that hears a hunter) are designed to go into temporary overdrive when you’re in danger. Your brain, perceiving trouble, sends an instant message to your adrenal glands (two walnut-sized glands perched atop your kidneys) to release adrenalin, norepinephrine, and cortisol. You’ll feel the caffeine-like effect of the adrenalin and norepinephrine as your muscles tense and your heart races. The cortisol is more subtle, but it changes the way your body uses sugar and stores fat (think belly fat buildup).

This stress response–including your body’s reaction to these hormones–is designed for single use only. Once you’ve escaped the mugger you’re supposed to have some down time so the entire system can recover.

Our bodies are simply not designed to deal with one stressor after another, or one big stressor that doesn’t go away, what doctors and psychologists call chronic stress. Although you may cringe at the thought of the Starbuck’s experiment, until you learn how to deal with the useless worry of chronic stress by leaving your miserable job, walking out on a toxic relationship, or mastering the art of saying “no,” you’re facing the very real health risks of stress.

You experience stress in any situation where you’ve relinquished control of your life. Any time someone or something controls your life–and you don’t–you’ll experience stress. We accept some sources of stress (a new baby keeping you awake at night), while others (the job from hell) we must learn to get out of our lives.

Evolution hasn’t taught us much when it comes to dealing with stress. It would have been nice if the stress response included heightened self-awareness or opened some unused philosophical circuits in our brain. Instead, we eat too much, skip meals, drink, or smoke. We get angry, irritable, or weepy. We don’t sleep and then get tired–really, seriously tired.

All these stress-associated behaviors only serve to make us more stressed, and yes, things do tend to spin out of control. Up goes the blood pressure and risk for heart attack and stroke. Up goes your vulnerability to infection and probably even cancer. Down goes immunity. With chronic stress, we suffer a whole smorgasbord of conditions that aren’t really illnesses, though they’re often worse than actual illness and they definitely take their toll on our joie de vivre: depression, anxiety, muscle aches and pains, headaches, jaw grinding, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraines.

Can this be stopped? Yes, definitely. But that’s for next week.

Hint: you’ll need a major attitude shift and three useful herbs.

Posted in Blog, Knowledge Base, S Tagged with: ,

Leave a Comment

In Archive

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our


The Knowledge Base


Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!


Upcoming Workshops

The Next Lyme Academy Begins
Tuesday, October 4, 5:30-7 pm
Here’s a special invitation for patients of Dr. Kelley who are currently being treated for Lyme disease. Dr. Kelley’s new, four-week Lyme Academy starts on October 4, continuing over the following three Tuesdays.


Awakened Body, Quiet Mind
An innovative workshop series for relieving mind/body stress and tapping into your true power and natural health.
4 Group Sessions with Meghan Roekle, PsyD
Four meetings using a unique combination of embodiment meditation and mental inquiry for deep healing.
Thursdays from 6:00-8:00pm; beginning October 20th

Recent Health Tips

  • Tired All The Time? Useful Info and Two Supplements

    Tired All The Time? Useful Info and Two Supplements

    As you might expect, fatigue is a fairly common reason people visit doctors. Feeling tired is vague symptom and can be linked to dozens of possible diagnoses, plus there’s a need to differentiate between physical fatigue and mental fatigue (brain fog) or consider both. When …Read More »
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers!

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers!

    I’d been reading Ally Hilfiger’s new autobiography Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, Made Me Crazy, and Almost Killed Me, preferring the Lyme parts to those devoted to fashion and her MTV “Rich Girl” series. Her symptoms were typical of chronic Lyme and …Read More »

October Sale: 20% Off Urban Moonshine Products


All Urban Moonshine products are 20% off for the entire month of October!

Urban Moonshine creates beautiful herbal formulas that focus on prevention, improving quality of life, and empowering people to create home herbal apothecaries.  More>>