More and more studies are showing us how chronically increased stress levels cause us to suffer physical, emotionally and spiritually. Stress can really kill! Stress is a major factor in heart disease including heart failure, sudden cardiac death, and heart enlargement.
Stroke, chronic fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, depression and anxiety, are all intimately connected to the psychological and emotional effects of chronic stress. Up to 90% of all initial visits to a family physician are due to underlying stress.
If we don’t learn how to manage our stress, it will definitely manage us, and be behind all manner of health problems. You probably are familiar with the fear, flight fight response the body uses to deal with emergency situations.
This is the acute stress response and is perfectly healthy in life or death situations. It works like this: Your pituitary gland produces and discharges adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) into your bloodstream.
This then causes the release of two more hormones, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, a.k.a. adrenaline and noradrenaline, respectively. These come from the adrenal glands and also get released into the bloodstream. Their role is to prepare the body for emergency action. This means an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugars, and muscle tension, which occurs to help supply enough blood to your brain and musculoskeletal system.
This is fine as long as the stress is a true emergency. However, when the stress response remains active over the long-term, due to perceived threat, then serious health consequences ensue, and these can literally be deadly. It is our responses to work, finances, and relationships, which underlie the problem of ongoing stress.
There are many different ways we choose to cope with stress. Unfortunately, a lot of these can be deemed unhealthy coping mechanisms and serve only to exacerbate the situation further. If we allow stress to cause us to react negatively, to worry, to get angry or anxious, we only perpetuate the problem and make ourselves sicker in the long-run.
If we allow negative thinking to rule our minds, we will become more run down than ever, and the stress will continue to mount and get stored in our bodies, leading to more ill-health and problems with our well-being.
So, even though we may exercise and eat well, if we don’t address our negative responses to stress, which might include eating chips on the couch after we had a healthy green salad, or drinking too much alcohol even though we work out five times per week, then we only create more stress and end up sabotaging our best efforts.