Stress Can Kill

Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” We use the word “stress” when we feel overwhelmed by current situations—too many deadlines or responsibilities at work or home; too much debt; too many bills. Basically anything that we feel poses a challenge or threat to our well-being. The previous examples would be considered “bad” stress.
There is “good” stress as well—a promotion at work; moving; getting married; the birth of a child. The events that most of us experience to hopefully get to a more fulfilling place.
Stress, also known as “flight or fight response” is actually an internal response to external stressors. This is a very a very important response, often meaning life or death, especially back in the days when humans had to contend with saber tooth tigers and had to get away—quickly.
During the flight or fight response, the body produces larger quantities of chemicals like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These chemicals cause the heart to beat faster, muscles to tense, sweating and increased alertness—responses necessary to get us out of trouble quickly by fighting or fleeing.
Stress causes the following physical responses:
  • Blood pressure increases
  • Breathing becomes more rapid
  • Digestive system slows down
  • Heart rate increases
  • Muscles tense
  • Sleeplessness due to heightened alertness
While we no longer have the stressor of saber tooth tigers to out run, we have plenty of others to contend with:
  • Losing a job
  • 401k plummeting
  • High rents
  • Crowded trains/buses
  • TSA
  • Divorce
  • Death
Stressors are all around us and will continue to be; what matters is how we choose to respond. Why is that important? Because there are physical, psychological and behavioral effects related to chronic stress.
The physical effects of chronic stress are dangerous and include but are not limited to:
  • Hydrohidrosis (profuse sweating)
  • Back pain
  • Chest pain
  • Obesity in children – a number of stressors from parents can increase the risk of obesity in their children!!!Cramps or muscle spasms
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Fainting spells
  • Headache
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Compromised immune system
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nervous twitches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stomach upset
Some psychological effects are:
  • Anger
  • Burnout
  • Feeling of insecurity
  • Forgetfulness
  • Irritability
  • Problem concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness/depression
Behavioral responses take the form of:
  • Over eating
  • Eating too little
  • Food cravings
  • Sudden angry outbursts
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Higher tobacco consumption
  • Social withdrawal
  • Frequent crying
  • Relationship problems
So we know that stressors are all around us and that it’s not the stressor but our innate response to stress left over from a very long time ago. We also know that chronic exposure to stress can lead to physical, psychological and behavioral problems—not only for us but for those closest to us as well. So what now?
  • Exercise has been shown to have beneficial effects on one’s mental and physical state
  • Learn the most powerful word in the world—NO! Overwhelm is one most preventable stressors around.
  • Share the work load at work. Being indispensable is over rated and bad for your well-being.
  • Drinking and taking drugs only numb you temporarily; when you awaken from your stupor, everything will be the same. Identify and deal with the stressor.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake if it is high.
  • Eat healthfully-lots of organic fruit and vegetables. Reduce your consumption of meat and when you do eat it, make sure it’s grass fed for beef; wild for fish and free range for chicken.
  • Make time for yourself to sit in silence, pursue outside interests.
  • Learn to breathe from your diaphragm and practice when you start to feel stressed.
  • Laugh—watch comedy—there’s NOTHING better than a great laugh.
  • Express yourself, don’t hold feelings in.
  • Get bodywork-a massage, Reiki, acupuncture.
  • Meditate, do Yoga.
  • Seek the professional help of a talk therapist.
  • Get a pet, they are delightful and do wonders to reduce stress. But be mindful of the type of pet you get. Dogs are higher maintenance than cats. If walking the dog multiple times a day will add on to your stress, volunteer for pet sitting.
If you would like to read more check it out here.
Book Authored by Deidre Ann Johnson

Keep this handy book by your desk while working or in your carry on when travelling for tips to keep you flexible and pain free.