When people talk about harmful stress — the kind that can affect health — they usually point to big, life-changing events, such as the death of a loved one. A growing body of research suggests that minor, everyday stress — caused by flight delays, traffic jams, cellphones that run out of battery during an important call, etc. — can harm health, too, and even shorten life spans.
One traffic jam a week isn’t going to kill you, of course. Psychologists say it’s the nonstop strains of everyday life that can add up. “These hassles can have a big impact on physical health and well-being, particularly when they accumulate and we don’t have time to recover from one problem before another hits us,” says California-based psychologist Melanie Greenberg, author of “The Stress-Proof Brain.”
Chronic daily hassles can lead to increased blood pressure, which puts you at risk for heart disease, explains Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University . She adds that it can also raise the levels of our stress hormones, a process that affects our immune system, and can lead to chronic inflammation, a condition associated with a host of serious illnesses, including cancer.