The Negative Health Impact of Stress
Posted on 17 Nov 2021
Stress: A Global Health Epidemic
- 75 – 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
- 77% of people say they regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress.
- Stress may be as major a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke as smoking or high blood pressure, according to a Harvard study published in 2017.
- As of February 2021, reports of burnout increased during the COVID-19 pandemic among all surveyed employees regardless of generation. While Millennials previously reported much higher burnout rates than other generations, in February 2021, Gen Z and Gen X reported similar rates. This statistic displays the percentage of U.S. employees feeling burnout pre-COVID Jan. 2020 vs Feb. 2021, by generation. (Source-Statista)
The Science of Stress: What Happens in Your Brain?
- The stress response begins when the amygdala (an area of the brain that interprets images and sounds) sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus.
- The hypothalamus (the part of the brain that communicates with the rest of the body) floods the body with adrenaline.
- This triggers a “fight or flight” response which produces changes in your body, including:
- Faster heartbeats that push blood to the muscles, heart, and other vital organs
- Rapid breathing to take in as much oxygen as possible
- Extra oxygen is sent to the brain, increasing sensory alertness
- Blood sugar and fats flood into the bloodstream to energise all body parts
- As the initial surge of stress hormones subsides, the hypothalamus activates the HPA Axis and this prompts the release of the stress hormone cortisol.
- In a state of high alertness, Cortisol can temporarily modify or shut down functions that get in the way, such as your digestive or immune systems or even your growth processes.
- When the stress passes, cortisol levels fall, and the parasympathetic nervous system puts a stop to the stress response.
How Stress Affects The Body
The Danger of Chronic Stress
- Chronic stress is when your stress system is continually activated over a long period of time.
- This overuse can contribute to putting pressure on the body and increases the risk of certain illnesses.
- Research has found links between chronic stress over long periods and:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Weight Gain
- Weakened Immune System
- Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Respiratory Infections
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Anxiety Disorder
Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Life
- Exercise – Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to relax your body and mind. Plus, exercising will improve your mood. However, in order for it to pay off, you must do it frequently.
- Develop stress management skills – Effective stress management allows you to free yourself from the grip that stress has on your life, allowing you to be happier, healthier, and more productive. The ultimate goal is to live a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun—as well as the resilience to keep going when things become tough. However, stress management is not a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why it’s crucial to try new things and see what works best for you.
- Learn to recognise your stressors – Determine the primary sources of stress in your life. Is it your job, your commute, or your homework that’s the problem? If you can figure out what they are, see if you can get rid of them or at least lessen them in your life.
- Make lifestyle changes – such as eating a healthy diet; reducing caffeine and sugar.; avoiding cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs, getting enough sleep and taking a break.
- Seek professional help – Chronically stressed people should get help as soon as possible, especially if stress symptoms arise. You will need to see a medical practitioner and/or a therapist, depending on the symptoms you are experiencing. If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms described above, see your doctor right away. A medical practitioner can rule out any other possible causes of your symptoms and talk to you about the many types of stressors in your life.
- Try mindfulness – Mindfulness is a state of focused attention on the present moment that is intentional and nonjudgmental. Other activities, such as yoga or meditation, frequently combine mindfulness techniques. It is often thought to include the following elements – Awareness, Focus, Acceptance, and Observation — these are the four pillars of mindfulness.