Stressing About Stress Will Make You Ill

Megan Charles - Author
By

Jan. 3 2018, Updated 2:19 p.m. ET

Stress is the response to a situational stimulus, the body’s natural way of reacting to a challenge. The sympathetic nervous system coordinates a fight-or-flight response – a physiological reaction that occurs when a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival is detected.

This mechanism is responsible for the physical sensation of stress as the body is prepping to react with increased acuity and heightened adrenaline.

Prolonged bouts of stress can negatively impact overall health and well-being. The results of unrelieved anxiety can manifest as fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty sleeping. People can also experience other unusual symptoms such as hair loss and obsessive-compulsive like behaviors.

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General adaptation syndrome (GAS) is a term used to describe the body’s short-term and long-term reactions to physical and emotional stress.

Physical stressors include starvation or being hit by a car. Emotional or mental stressors encompass the loss of a loved one through death or divorce, the inability to solve a problem, or having a difficult day at work.

Day-to-day demands of living contribute to your body’s stress response.

We hear it every day, how stress is bad for our health. Still we trudge through – getting little sleep, skipping breakfast, road-rage through traffic, working non-stop and sitting for eight to 10 hours, scarf down fast-food for lunch, road-rage home, and then try to decompress.

But not everyone comes home ready and able to disconnect from their day as there are still tasks to be done – dinner, laundry, dishes, trying to help kids with their math homework, struggling to understand the math homework.

Before you know it you’re lying in bed running through the list of things to be done for the next day as nothing can slip through the cracks, and kept awake with the worry about bills, overall health, career, and loved ones, and stressing about disagreements and replaying discussions.

We harbor and internalize things that should be addressed with others but don’t – thus adding to the frustration.

We even stress about the weird noise the car has been making and how much it’s going to cost.

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Researchers from Inserm, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Villejuif, France, urge the need for better stress management as they have found an excessive amount of stress – more specifically worrying about stress and its impact on health – can increase the likelihood of a heart attack by 50 percent, reports the Huffington Post.

Simply put, just worrying about stress can make you seriously ill.

The study, led by Dr. Hermann Nabi, followed more than 7,000 civil servants over a period of up to 18 years. Participants, who had an average age of 49.5, were asked to what extent they felt day-to-day stress had affected their health. Lifestyle factors were also considered as contributors were asked if they smoke, how much alcohol they consumed on average, and questioned about their diet, exercise, and medical history.

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The individual’s perception of stress was found to have an impact on cardiovascular health. People who believed stress was harming their health “a lot or extremely” were more at risk than those who shrugged off its effects. After taking into account the other factors that could influence the result, the increase in risk fell to 49 percent, but still remained significant, reports the Daily Mail.

The influence of stress on health:

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases glucose in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of sugar and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.

The Mayo Clinic states, cortisol also curbs nonessential biological functions in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.

The body’s stress-response system is usually self-regulating. It decreases hormone levels and enables your body to return to normal once a perceived threat has passed. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems resume their regular activities.

But when the stressors of your life are always present, leaving you constantly feeling stressed, tense, nervous or on edge, that fight-or-flight reaction remains active. The less control you have over potentially stress-inducing events and the more uncertainty they create, the more likely you are to feel stressed.

The long-term activation of the stress-response system – the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones – can disrupt almost all your body’s processes and increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, digestive problems, sleeping problems, stress can impair memory, worsen skin conditions like eczema, and spurs depression and obesity.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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