Monthly Archives: March 2020

Stress & the Body

What is Stress?

Merriam-Webster defines stress as mental or emotional strain that results from either very demanding or adverse circumstances.

Stress can come in many forms, and not all stressful situations are necessarily detrimental. When we think of stress, we think of negative circumstances – the loss of income, the illness of a family member, or perhaps something as simple as fighting traffic during one’s commute to and from work.

However, stress is not always the result of a negative happening in one’s life. We may experience stress when confronted with new situations, such as starting a new job or the birth of a child. Stress is actually a fairly normal part of one’s life; few people can go throughout life without ever experiencing any kind of stress.

Stress can cause one’s adrenaline to surge, raise one’ heart rate, and deliver more oxygen to the blood. Stress, in limited amounts, can actually be good for a person. It is long-term, unrelenting stress that can have a detrimental effect on one’s health.

What is the effect of stress on the body?

Stress that continues for a long time can do great harm to one’s body. Constant stress can cause a number of physical issues – headaches, chest pain, loss of sleep, upset stomach or other digestive issues, and elevated blood pressure.

Prolonged stress can cause one with underlying physical conditions to see a worsening of their symptoms. For instance, someone with conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis can see a worsening in their illness as a result of prolonged stress. Long-term stress can also cause people to develop physical illnesses. Those who develop fibromyalgia often do so as a result of prolonged stressful situations.

Yet, once again, even the medical experts will relate that some stress is actually good for the body so long as it is not prolonged exposure to stressful situations.

What are some statistics regarding stress?

Up to forty-three percent of all adults experience negative physical effects of stress. Between seventy-five and ninety percent of all doctor office visits are related to the effects of stress. Stress can worsen asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart health issues, and skin conditions such as psoriasis. It can also cause physical problems to develop, particularly depression and anxiety. In fact, approximately half of all the emotional disorders adults experience can be traced back to the individual’s experiencing prolonged stress.

Ironically, OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has cited stress as a workplace hazard. This is telling in that stress can be a major distraction while working; a good example would be when an employee in a manufacturing plant fails to complete all safety checks and is injured (or injures another employee) due to a lack of concentration from the presence of stress.

How does long-term stress affect one’s health?

Medical professionals relate that their are actually two kinds of stress – “eustress,” which is considered “positive” stress, such as getting a promotion at work; and “distress,” which is the negative stress that can actually be harmful to us over a long period of time.

Distress can cause a person to feel overworked, overwhelmed, and tense. This is the type of stress that leads to the high blood pressure, headaches, and stomach issues noted previously.

It should also be noted that some people may suffer negative effects from stress when they choose to use alcohol or other substances to deal with stressful situations. These substances can include using tobacco to deal with prolonged stress. Using any type of substance to deal with stress can have significant, long-term detrimental effects on a person’s well-being.

I get that stress is bad for me. What can I do to combat stress?

Physicians state that one must learn how to manage stress in order to prevent the harmful physical effects of the condition.

There are many healthy ways to manage stress. First, one can plan physical activity which can alleviate many of the effects of stress. Take a walk or participate in some form of physical exercise. Many individuals pray or meditate in order to combat stress. Utilizing breathing exercise in addition to meditating is often a good way to alleviate stress. Choosing daily to find a way to deal with stressful situations goes a long way to combating the negative physical effects of stress.