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The Danger of Chronic Stress

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PostPosted: Fri 13:40, 25 Mar 2011    Post subject: The Danger of Chronic Stress

Did you know?
What is Stress?
What Happens Under Acute Stress?
What Happens Under Chronic Stress?
What can be done about stress?
Sleep disturbances, eczema, headache, chest pain, high blood pressure, muscle aches, back pain, clenched jaws, tooth grinding, upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea, tiredness, sex problems, anxiety, panic attacks, restlessness, worrying, irritability, anger, feeling insecure,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, overeating, increased smoking, relationship conflicts, decreased productivity, blaming others...
Do you know that the cause of all these problems can be chronic stress, or stress that occurs frequently?
It is known today that almost 80% of all diseases are linked to psychological and/or emotional disorders.
Stress accounts for adverse health effects in 43% of all adults.
In fact, it’s been estimated that as many as 90% of doctor’s visits are for symptoms that are at least partially stress-related!
Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
Stress symptoms often mimic the symptoms of other disorders. You may think an illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent forgetfulness or your decreased productivity at work. But the common denominator may be stress. Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Stress may be affecting your health, and you may not even realize it.
There’s no escaping it: stress is a part of our lives. Many people consider stress to be something that happens to them – an event or an accident. But in fact, the critical factor is how we think about the situations in which we find ourselves. How we perceive a stress-provoking event and how we react to it determines its impact on our health.
What is Stress?
Stress is a failure to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats whether they are real or imagined. A Stressor can be anything that disturbs the body’s homeostasis. A stressor (that which causes stress) can be:
Psychological and Emotional – job loss, relationship problems, work environment;
Chemical – poisoning, environmental intoxication;
Physical – injury, trauma, hot, cold, noise;
What Happens Under Acute Stress?
Acute stress is anything that threatens survival at a present moment. For example, sudden noise, fire, dark place, physical threat, falling, an animal chasing you or anything else that can potentially harm or kill you.
Acute Stress is based on the fight or flight response which is a mechanism evolutionary designed to ensure your survival. Stress is a quick response to danger. It is characterized by change in brain function and physiological arousal. Your brain shifts into survival mentality and operates based on instinct.
Symptoms of physical arousal include increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweat, pupil dilation. Hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body. Adrenaline increases the heart rate, contracts blood vessels, dilates air passages and participates in the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system. Cortisol is a steroid produced by the adrenal gland. It is released in response to stress, and to a low level of blood glucocorticoids. Its primary functions are to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, suppress the immune system, and aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. Digestion slows down and blood flows towards arms and legs so that the person can fight or run.
What Happens Under Chronic Stress?
Chronic or prolonged stress is anything or anyone that disturbs the mind over a long period of time. Family problems, a difficult class at school, a schedule that is too busy, a death, divorce, project deadlines, conflict, mortgage payments, unemployment, long commuting, unresolved life problems, work environment, phobias; all of these can cause chronic stress.
Under chronic stress the mind switches into survival mentality. A person falls back on what they already know and stop exploring new ideas. Creativity and critical thinking are shot down. Perception changes from future oriented thinking towards present oriented thinking.
Creative new ideas can elicit a feeling uncertainty or even aggression because they are unfamiliar and require changes. Change requires energy. The brain will resist any change because it needs all the energy there is to cope with stress. Remember that the brain does not know the difference between what it sees in the environment and what it imagines. If a person thinks about something stressful or unpleasant, the body will react accordingly.
In small amounts stress can be stimulating. But if we repeatedly react to situations beyond our control in a negative way, our health and happiness may suffer. Frequent and Prolonged Stress is potentially damaging.
Chronic stress can raise cortisol levels and weaken our immune system due to its immunosuppressive action. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to have negative effects; they can cause serious health problems such as: impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia, decreased bone density, decrease in muscle tissue, and high blood pressure.
The immune system is a collection of mechanisms within an organism that protects it against disease by identifying and killing pathogens and tumor cells. The immune system detects a wide variety of agents, from viruses to parasitic worms, and needs to distinguish them from the organism's own healthy cells and tissues in order to function properly.
Stress could be one of many components in lowering the immune system, thereby making us more susceptible to a large array of diseases. Let’s take cancer, for example. Every day, our bodies are exposed to cancer causing agents in the air, food and water. Under normal circumstances, our immune system recognizes abnormal cells and kills them before they produce a tumor. However, research has shown that stress can hamper the ability of the immune system to do this.
Chronic stress makes you more susceptible to infections. It also increases your risk of autoimmune diseases, in which your immune system attacks your body's own healthy cells, as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, etc.
In an attempt to relieve stress some can even become physically violent, most often with family members. Instead of exercising to relieve stress, some people respond by overeating, eating unhealthy foods or smoking.
What can be done about this?
Knowing that stress may have a negative impact on our health, we still need to admit that we will never be able to be completely rid of it in our daily lives. The key is not to do away with all of life’s pressures, but to handle them properly on a daily basis.
There is a big difference between silencing and dealing with stress. Unfortunately most people prefer to silence their stress, ignore it, take prescription to relax, overeat unhealthy foods, smoke, consume alcohol and use other harmful ways of coping with stress.
Real stress management is about recognizing your problems and dealing with them effectively. Sometimes you can solve them on your own and other times you need someone who can help you solve the problem.
Chronic stress is one of the leading causes of major diseases and death. Many people experience symptoms of chronic stressed daily without being aware of it. Guilt, unresolved personal and family problems, boredom, lack of purpose, not doing what you want to do and doing what you don’t want to do as well as other problems could cause chronic stress.
Overall, people end up spending more time and money on fixing serious psychological and physiological problems than time and money on preventing stressful reactions. If you care about a healthy future for yourself and your family members, take care of stress now while you still can.
"Health is not just the absence of disease. It is a feeling of total well-being on the Physical, Mental, Emotional & Spiritual levels of a person's life." - The World Health Organization

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