Stress – The Good, The Bad, and The Fatal!

Stress - The Good, The Bad, and The Fatal!

Stress – The Good, The Bad, and The Fatal!

Stress - The Good, The Bad, and The Fatal!

Stress is the modern ‘backache’ and directly or indirectly causes more lost days at work than any other disease. The HSE estimates that 11.7 million days were lost in the year 2015/16

Stress, and why it’s a double-edged sword

Stress is what gets you up in the morning and gets you to work, whether you work from home, work for yourself, work for a company, or even do voluntary work.
In it’s simplest form it sparks you into action, even when you don’t really feel like it, and gets you moving because at some level, not doing so would cause pain to you and possibly others who are relying on you to ‘show up’.
Bills need to be paid, money needs to be generated, ‘the world doesn’t owe you a living’ so somehow this has to be earned.

This is usually pretty low-level stress, and many wouldn’t even recognise it as such. But the same chemicals that are involved in high-level stress are also involved at this base level, albeit in small easy to process amounts. A quick shot of adrenaline and you are up and running.

But when we talk about stress, we often mean a feeling of overload and lack of control over what is happening to us.

Too much stress is bad for you

The problem is that too much pressure can lead to excessive worry, a feeling of lack of control and fear of the future. In short, the building blocks of the feeling of being stressed.

When the feeling of stress comes on, the body reacts to this danger signal from the old reptilian brain at the top of our spine and generates the chemicals cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline, to drive the fight or flight reflex. If these chemicals are left un-used, they can build up over time.

Adrenaline and noradrenaline will raise blood your pressure, increase your heart rate, and get you ready to run.
Cortisol acts as a natural painkiller.
Combined they also prevent the immune and digestive systems from functioning properly to save unnecessary oxygen being used in your blood and release fat and sugar into your bloodstream to aid your fight or flight reaction.
If you have a full stomach in a perceived emergency, they will try to empty it (one way or the other) to save your vital blood supplies for surviving rather than digesting.

In times of extreme danger, these systems heighten your reactions and reflexes, boost your strength levels, and get you out of trouble.

If you were in actual physical danger and you took flight by running, or you were cornered and forced to stand your ground and fight your way to safety the physical exertion used would burn the chemicals off, and once the danger had passed your body would recover and return to normal function.

However, if the stress is mental, is ongoing and not dealt with, the chemicals stay in your system and start to damage your organs and cause physical problems

Stress symptoms

We all show signs of stress in different ways. But whatever the cause of our concerns – such as business or work issues, relationship challenges, money worries, planning a holiday, moving house or problems with our health – we need to recognise that the pressure is building up.

To reduce the effects of stress, we need to recognise we’re suffering from it. According to Aviva health insurance, these are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Being more irritable than usual
  • Over-reacting when criticised
  • Feeling as though you ‘don’t know where to start’
  • Experiencing guilt if you’re relaxing, and not always ‘on the go’
  • Having trouble getting to sleep, or waking up early
  • Drinking and/or smoking more than usual
  • Finding it hard to concentrate even on simple tasks
  • Struggling to make decisions, where this was once straightforward
  • Suffering from indigestion, loss of appetite, or ‘comfort’ eating
  • Nail-biting or increased compulsive activities
  • Finding yourself keeping busy with ‘displacement activities’
  • Finding ‘tense’ sensations in your body, the neck and lower back particularly
  • Losing any sense of joy in formerly pleasurable activities

Stress management

You need to find the causes and deal with them.

If you feel overwhelmed ask for help.

Find a coach or a mentor or someone detached from your situation who can give you unbiased help and advice.

You should talk to your GP if you think you’re experiencing levels of stress that are causing you a real cause for concern your physical or mental health.

But remember that once you’ve identified that you have a problem, you can take start taking action to help reduce the stress you’re experiencing by making simple lifestyle changes.

  • Learn to relax and meditate. If you can control your thoughts and calm your mind, you will start to take back control
  • Do one thing at a time – don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ when demands are placed on you, and walk away from stressful situations
  • Spend time with people who are positive rather than negative
  • Accept offers of practical help – and accept your own time and resource limits
  • Let off steam safely – Do some vigorous physical activity
  • Use relaxation techniques – yoga classes are ideal, and practise slow breathing using the lower part of your lungs
  • Go for a walk in nature
  • Be more physically active – gentle cycling, brisk walking or swimming will help you sleep better
  • Do something completely different for your normal activities to allow you to switch off from the problem
  • Make time to socialise with friends
  • And importantly, make time for yourself

Leaving stress untreated

Leaving stress untreated is dangerous for your mental and physical health.

Burn out is real, and many people who suffer from it never fully recover.

And in the end, if you leave high levels of corrosive chemicals floating around in your system, they have a very real potential to shorten your life. I’ve personally researched this, and firmly believe my unaddressed stress levels created a heart attack in 2008.

You don’t have to wait that long to find out!

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