Killer Stress: What Is It Doing To Your Health?

exercise to help with stress relief

Killer Stress: What It’s Doing To Your Health

How do you define stress?

The dictionary definition claims that stress is basically: a state of mental (or emotional) strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

However, in the real world, it’s far more than just that. From signs of early aging, to heart problems, blood pressure issues, and an overall negative effect on your mental health, stress can cause irreversible damage.

They say that stress is a killer. Sadly, such a phrase is wholly accurate.

Whether it be high-pressure days at work, difficult commutes, the psychological and timely challenge that raising kids can become, a lack of sleep, making ends meet, or even a lack of exercise – stress can become overbearing.

It boils down your horizons and ambitions to almost nothing. Stress leaves you drowning dry.

Some people believe that stress helps them to perform faster and more efficiently. However, that’s rarely the case.

Turn to any research study and you’ll find the opposite is true. Excitement and the associated adrenaline may help hasten your actions, but stress usually causes panic.

With that panic, you are more likely to make mistakes, overlook vital information, lose control of equipment, or breach health & safety. All of that can lead to injury, or worse.

And when we say ‘worse’, workplace accidents can prove fatal for the people involved. Here’s some further information on workplace accidents that you may wish to learn.

Besides that scary stuff, there’s frightening stuff going on in your body. We don’t tell you that to cause fear, but by educating you on the dangers of stress, you can take control and keep yourself healthier for longer.

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But Some Say Stress Is Good For Me?

But Some Say Stress Is Good For Me?

Let’s make this perfectly clear – chronic stress is not good for you.

While a small amount of stress can help your body conserve energy when hungry, or engage your natural ‘fight-or-flight’ response in the face of danger, prolonged levels negatively impact your body’s ability to function normally, and prevents your body’s natural immune response.

From depression, to heart disease, and suicidal thoughts, stress causes no end of suffering in the long term. Never believe that stress is a benefit, or something you should pursue.

Stress Causes Emotional Depression

stress caused emotional damage

We have all been there. Stressed beyond belief, and felt ourselves start to ‘fly off the handle’.

Don’t be hard on yourself, though. Even a mild level of stress can cause any rational human being to lose their cool. And it doesn’t take much more stress before depression can become a stark reality.

We all convince ourselves that it’ll never happen to us. Yet, by-products of stress hormones can create real difficulties for your mental balance.

These by-products act as sedatives; chemical substances that cause fatigue. Others may call this effect ‘calming’, but it’s not as simple as that.

Hang on, isn’t a sedative something positive? And aren’t ‘calm’ and ‘stress’ complete polar opposites?

In terms of a dictionary definition, yes. Absolutely. But in the living world, and with our bodies, it’s far more multifaceted.

When these hormone byproducts build up in large amounts – such as dealing with the conditions of chronic stress – they can cause and sustain low levels of energy and/or depression.

But low energy can’t cause depression, can it? Oh yes. It can.

Your habitual thoughts and behavioral pattern influence the likelihood of depression by increasing the chances that a person will experience negative thoughts – directly proven to be a leading cause of depression.

These negative thoughts include low self-confidence, self-efficacy, and an overwhelming sense that you cannot manage stress.

It all grates you down and kick-starts a depressive spiral that remains difficult – if not almost impossible – to get out of.

With stress, it is completely normal to experience a wide range of moods (both high and low), but once depression has taken hold, other symptoms can dictate your daily life. These attributes include:

Problems with sleep
Changes of appetite
Feelings of worthlessness
Guilt and self-hatred
The inability to make decisions or concentrate
Restlessness and extreme Irritability
Withdrawal from typical daily life
Feelings of hopelessness
Overwhelming feelings of helplessness

Depression is also linked to suicidal thinking, and the devastating actions that so often accompany them.

Alongside that, stress-induced depression leaves individuals vulnerable to other mental health disorders.

Stress Promotes Disease

Stress Promotes Disease

That heading may sound absurd, but it’s very sadly true. Certain individuals are prone to certain conditions and diseases.

Stress basically enables these health conditions to swamp the body and take over.

Dozens of studies have concluded that stress is linked to a higher risk of cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, lung disease, and digestive problems.

Then there’s your heart – a susceptible organ that stress can severely impact.

Although there is limited conclusive evidence to confirm that stress alone triggers heart disease, chronic stress absolutely contributes to it.

Your body’s response to being stressed always results in a quickened heart rate, with constriction of blood vessels.

You may even experience vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels) concerning your skeletal muscles, as this gears the body up for quick movement in a ‘fight-or-flight’ situation. This happens thanks to the stress hormones: adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol signal.

The initial stress may help to escape unfavorable situations, but if you remain in this state for too long (which chronic stress can do), it can cause damage to the cardiovascular system.

Furthermore, how you choose to cope with stress can have a direct impact on both heart and lung disease. Turn to smoking to relieve stress? Opt to eat comfort foods? Use alcohol to cope? All of these aspects have negative impacts on your internal organs.

Stress Weakens Your Immune System

Stress Weakens Your Immune System

If you begin to suffer from a weakened immune system, then you can literally worry yourself sick.

Long periods of stress cause your cortisol levels to rise. The longer you keep this level of cortisol up, the higher the risk of eroding away your immune system.

Being stressed can also damage the cells of your body, and trigger responses from your immune system that roll out the red carpet for viruses and infections – such as elevated inflammation. In the modern world, this can leave you open to COVID-19.

By remaining in a heightened state of panic while suffering from chronic stress, you continuously drop the level of your body’s lymphocytes; the white blood cells that fight off infection.

What Can I Do To Combat Stress?

sleepless with stress

Before you can tackle the problem, you’ve first got to understand the symptoms and tell-tale signs that you are burdened with chronic levels of stress.

One of the biggest symptoms is feeling unstable with your emotions. You could be overly emotional, or your emotions may fluctuate.

You may find it difficult to sleep, maintain an appetite, and keep weight on.

Sound like you? Also feel yourself becoming anxious over the little things, and wanting to retreat from your social life?

Chances are, stress is eating away at your mentality.

What can you do about it?

We aren’t going to insult you and demand that you simply calm down, get a hold of yourself, or ‘get a grip’. When you feel so emotional and nervous, such advice is far from helpful.

To combat your stress, try taking breaks from the screen. Give yourself a respite from your work, and quit constantly scrolling through social media.

It’s also in our nature to stay informed with news and events, but consider limiting news to only a couple of times per day.

Constantly following the media can be upsetting, and the burnout from distressing economic and global events only adds to your condition.

Where you can, disconnect from your phone, too. We seem to always be on alert when our phones are present. Cut yourself some slack.

We’d also advise that you take care of yourself. Put yourself first and eat a healthy selection of foods, drink plenty of fluids, and take that all-important break if you feel stressed out.

Develop a routine for going to bed. Don’t eat anything for a couple of hours before turning in, and keep away from the phone screen for no less than 60 minutes before bed.

If you are still struggling, try spraying lavender on your pillow, or perform some yoga before hitting the sack.

Take Care Of Your Body

Take Care Of Your Body

If you feel everything bubbling up inside you, or run the risk of a panic attack, take a series of deep breaths and stretch.

When you have time, try meditation to release that build-up anxiety. And if you don’t have time, then make some! Your health comes first.

On that subject, make time to unwind. Try out some hobbies or previous activities that you enjoy. Running, cycling, sailing, driving – it’s all good to help you relax.

Try to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and tobacco use, though. And certainly steer clear of abusive substances.

Perhaps most importantly – talk to people. Reach out to your nearest and dearest and discuss your concerns and how you are feeling.

This will help you to recognize when you need help, and allow others to understand your behavior.

If you are feeling lost, or thinking about suicide, don’t suffer in silence and let the suicidal voice build up into a scream. Talk to someone, or call one of the helplines set up to help in these circumstances.

Don’t forget to exercise, too. Even if it’s only a 30-minute walk to decompress after work.

Struggling with keeping active? Get in touch with us. We can help you stay on track.

Andrew Vertson

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