The Truth About Stress and How it Affects Your Health

Stress is inevitable and leads to many disadvantages. But does stress also affect human health?

how stress affects health

Every person is affected by stress in everyday life. It may come in small, mild matters like in traffic or deadlines or it could come in chronic form and lead to many disadvantages. But does stress really affect human health?

In the old days, stress is very much useful when our ancestors are faced with dangers or threats. Or in other words: predators. During the time where our ancestors are encountered by the predators like lion or bear, their bodies experience extreme stress which opens to the human ability to have an urge strength either to fight or run away. But once the dangerous situation has passed, the body goes back to its normal strength.

For our ancestors to have superhuman strength during the time of danger does only mean that stress do affects our health. It causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain making it almost tangible as it is felt both in mind and body.

There are four types of stress.

  1. Eustress is the kind of stress which is fun and exciting and is related with surges of adrenaline. Some example is the excitement a person is feeling when he or she receives a promotion from work or when he or she is learning a new skill.
  2. Short-term stresses that can be either positive or negative and encounter to day-to-day life is called acute stress. It is thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much of it is exhausting. For instance, a fast run down a challenging ski slope is exhilarating early in the day; but the same ski that runs late in the day is taxing and wearing. Moreover, skiing beyond your limits can lead to falls and broken bones.
  3. An acute stress that develops or evolve on the next level is called the episodic acute stress. The American Psychological Association describe the people with this kind of stress as so disordered. They seem to always be in a rush but is always late. If something could go wrong, it does. Furthermore, they take on too much and can’t organize the slew of self-inflicted demands and pressures clamoring for their attention.
  4. Chronic stress is the worst kind of stress. It seems never-ending and inescapable, like the stress of a bad marriage or an extremely taxing job.

Earlier, we’ve mentioned the ancient advantage of stress to our ancestors. The surge of strength their experience is called the flight-or-flight response. All human beings naturally have this response to perceived threat or danger. This reaction triggers hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and caused to speed heart rate, slow digestion, shunt blood flow to major muscle groups, and change various autonomic nervous functions to give the body a burst of energy and strength enabling us to physically fight or run away if faced, say, with lions or bear.

Contemporarily, the fight-or-flight response is still active, however, it is activated in situations where it is not needed like in relation or during stressful days at work. Normally, the systems of the body are designed to return to normal function once the perceived threat is gone, but in times of chronic stress, the body doesn’t relax and cause damage to the body.

The mild or first symptoms of chronic stress are chronic headaches and the increases susceptibility to colds. If a person is more exposed to chronic stress, it may lead to more serious problems that will impact both emotional and physical health. It can result in burnout, depression, diabetes, hair loss, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, obesity, obsessive-compulsive or anxiety disorder, sexual dysfunction, tooth and gum disease, and ulcers.

There were cases where a person doesn’t know that he or she has a heart disease until an acute stress, caused by anger, triggered it resulting for a heart attack.

What to do?

Stress is inevitable. Keeping away from it is impossible. However, there are ways to manage your stress so it will not develop into more serious problems and it won’t damage your health. Try doing the following when experiencing physiological arousal:

Learn the tension taming techniques

Activate the body’s relaxation response by doing any of the following: meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, journaling, positive imagery, etc. These activities can be learned easily and practice when under stress, helping you feel better relatively quick at the same time.

There was also what we call catharsis–an emotional release. It comes from the Greek word katharsis which means “purification” or “cleansing”. It involves both a powerful emotional component in which strong emotions are felt and expressed. This could also tame your stress

Prevent excess stress

Avoid or minimize chronic stress through the use of organization techniques such as time management, relationship skills, and healthy lifestyle choices.

Identify what’s causing the problem

You may want to realize what the root of the stress you are experiencing. Try to write down what’s bothering you. This may help you identify the cause of your stress and give an appropriate response.

Build a strong relationship

Most of the time, the cause of stress are relational. It might be related to a poor relational support. Building a strong relationship is fundamental in having a happy, contented life.

You may want to bond with friends and family. Call them, make appointments, and have some activity together that both of you will enjoy. Remember that relationships can serve as stress buffers. You can count on them for some practical assistance and support, useful ideas, or just fresh perspective once you tackle whatever’s causing your stress.

Walk away when you’re angry

Most people say do not ever make a decision when you are mad because it is for sure a bad one. It is also true when it comes to stress, that’s why it is better to walk away as most heart attacks are caused by anger. Also, literal walking (or other physical activities) can help you steam. Plus exercises increase the production of endorphins–the body’s natural mood-booster.

Rest your mind

Did you know that stress can make you awake at night? According to a 2012 survey from the American Psychological Association, 40% of adults are lying awake at night because of stress. That’s quite alarming. So to ensure having 7 to 8 hours of sleep avoid beverages containing caffeine. Remove as well distractions such as television or computer from your bedroom and try to sleep at the same time at night. Research shows that activities like yoga and relaxation exercises help to reduce stress and boost immune function.

Seek professional help

If you still feel overwhelmed, try to seek a psychologist’s help or other licensed mental health professionals. They can advise you to learn how to manage your stress effectively plus they can identify the situations and behaviors that might be contributing to your chronic stress and provide for a better action plan for it.

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