Stress: the Silent Killer

Stress is a normal reaction that comes from our evolutionary past. The so-called “fight or flight” reaction served our ancestors well, but in our times it is triggered too often by emotions, simple problems, and situations that pose no threat. The grinding pace of modern life streams with repeated “stressors” that build up. Our body reacts to the stress as it distracts our minds and affects our health for the worse. We know when we are “stressed-out,” and it’s a loud and clear message — we’re slowly killing ourselves.

Stress is the body and mind’s reaction to new situations and problems. The body turns up the metabolism with a burst of energy and then braces to react. The mind becomes focused and vigilant. If there is danger it is a good thing; if there is no danger the result is unnecessary wear-and-tear. The damage is both psychological and physical when the body’s reactions don’t match the situation.

During stress the nervous system reacts with chemical releases, hormones prepare the brain for action as it draws more oxygen, muscles tighten, the heart beats harder, and breathing accelerates. The body also suppresses the immune, excretory, and reproductive systems, and it’s all to prepare for action.

A return to a normal state is drawn out when stress becomes routine, for example, with job and family problems. Recurring and overlapping difficult events can easily become chronic stress. Normal function does not return easily and in time health deteriorates.

Constant stress takes its toll with headaches, sleeping problems, and back and stomach pain — if you’re lucky. Over a lifetime, it can cause debilitating and life threatening disease. Existing conditions worsen as the immune system weakens. Mood disorders become more common and daily living suffers.

Anxiety, lack of motivation, anger problems, depression, and anti-social behavior can become problematic. Using drugs, alcohol, and tobacco is a poor way to cope, and they more often add to the stress. The downward spiral begins to destroy personal and work relationships, and as long-term stress progresses it physically manifests as disease. The most common result, as research shows, is high blood pressure that leads to heart disease over time.

When stress seems overwhelming or unmanageable, there are solutions. If stress is dominating your lifestyle, it’s time to reach out.

Nurturing and maintaining social contacts can help you cope. Family relationships give outlet to frustrating life dilemmas, and friends can also be a source of support. Also, church and community organizations can be a path to insight and relief. Paying attention to good health helps the body’s resilience, and maintaining mental hygiene makes stress episodes shorter lived.

Exercise and meditation have proven to be good stress reducers as well. Incorporating more physical activity in daily living can be as simple as taking walks. Regular meditation can settle the mind and help you remain calm in situations that usually cause a lot of stress.

Emotional maturity is about knowing yourself and how you should react to stress. We all have to take on some stress; it’s important to know when to avoid a bad situation. In other words, if you see a train coming, get off the tracks! Take the first step and focus on examining what the sources of your stress are. Sometimes you need to change (or end) bad relationships or situations.

How you internalize and view personal stress has consequences, and your perception of any situation creates positive and negative emotions. Stress can be completely in the mind, but most likely it’s a combination of environment and perception. Knowing what you can change and what stress is appropriate can help keep your life in your hands.

Sources:

Ask Men
Web MD – Stress Management
Web MD – Essential Tremor and Stress Management
Wikipedia – Psychological Stress
National Institute of Health
Mayo Clinic

About the Author:
Iris Stone has worked as a freelance writer since 2011. Her writing has included content on medicine, healthcare, and education, although her interests are wide and varied. Prior to breaking into the freelance biz, Iris worked in sales for a health company and prior to that as an assistant in a chiropractic office. She is currently attending George Mason University and is majoring in Political Science. Check out her Google+ profile.