Stress is bad for you. Seriously bad. Under stress, your sympathetic nervous system increases your heart rate, constricts your blood vessels, increases your blood pressure, and slows your digestion.
“In response to acute and chronic stress, the hypothalamus secretes corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), which in turn induces the release of adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH). ACTH stimulates the synthesis and release of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) from the adrenal gland. In the short run, cortisol mobilizes and replenishes energy stores and contributes to increased arousal. However, if stress remains chronic, prolonged elevations of glucococorticoids may cause serious adverse effects, such as immunosuppression, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and osteoporesis. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921311/)
Translation: you’ll get sick more often for longer periods of time, and you’re at risk for heart disease and heart attacks.
If only there was something you could do about it. Oh wait, there is!
You can give! A study of a group of seventy-nine long-term survivors of AIDS (people who have survived twice as long as expected) were compared with a group whose AIDS symptoms proceed normally. “The long survivors were significantly more likely to have engaged in AIDS volunteerism and had significantly less depression, anxiety, and perceived stress. In a subsequent study on the psychological predictors of slower disease progression, the chapter again notes that volunteering, giving to charities, and expressing caring for others are related to better prognosis in AIDS and to less emotional distress”
Well, look at that. Giving can lower your stress and improve your health at the same time! Give, because you’re stressed out.