In our modern society, stress and stress-related illnesses have become a public health problem. Many of us feel we do not have time for all the “must haves” and walk around with constant bad feelings. Knowing temporary stress before a special task can make us extra alert and effective, but prolonged stress leads to fatigue and is also harmful to the body.
To experience stress for a longer time means it is a strain – both for the body and for mental health. When we are exposed to stresses, the body goes into emergency mode – meaning it prepares for “fight or flight”. Among other changes during this time, the transport of oxygen is accelerated throughout the body.
Our living conditions have drastically changed in the course of history, but our bodies react the same way when we catch sight of a fast moving car, as when our ancestors saw a lion appear in the corner of the eye – or when the cat sees the neighbor’s dog come rushing through the gate. What distinguishes us from other animals is our big brains that allow us both to brood over what happened and worry about what’s to come. And what separates us from our ancestors is that we have quite other things to worry about than being eaten by lions.
A stressor triggers a stress. It can be anything from noise and bullying to falling stock prices and high workload. How we perceive a situation is due to both our biological conditions and past experience. What a person experiences as stressful may not be that stressful to other people. Sometimes one speaks of positive stress, so long as there is a balance between the requirements of a person and the capacity of that person (or the resources she has available). But even if the stress can make us more alert and effective, it is not healthy to constantly walk around on alert. Without recovery, sooner or later, all the stress will lead to negative consequences.
We may feel stressed because we worry about disease and death, and stress itself can make us sick, and in the worst case lead to a premature death. Common consequences of stress are muscle aches, headaches and stomach problems. Prolonged stress can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, impair the immune system, affecting your sex life, memory, concentration, and more.
How to get help?
The best is of course to prevent stress and be sure to get back in the form of rest and strengthening activities. A good foundation for good health and increased resistance to stress is to sleep, eat and exercise regularly. If you also have good relationships and engaged in undemanding and pleasant activities on a regular basis, then you are properly equipped to cope with reasonable pressures. If stress is already a fact, then you need to stop and think about what needs to change. Is it time to change jobs? Or you have to find new strategies and new ways of thinking? Sometimes it can be helpful to meet with a psychologist to help make visible all the stressors and find ways to deal with stress.
If you or someone you know needs help, call us at 855-398-9837.