Stress over long periods of time is not sustainable and a major health risk.
Bluntly, it’s a potential killer.
Stress is the body’s normal and intended reaction to a challenging or dangerous situation.
When we become stressed, the body releases cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone’.
It primes our body to handle stressful situations by increasing glucose in the bloodstream.
This raises adrenaline levels, increasing our brain function at the expense of other non-essential systems such as the immune, digestive and reproductive systems.
It’s a good response for the short-term but it’s pretty clear what kind of damage it can cause in the long term.
That is the risk facing anyone who continues to battle chronic stress for whatever reason.
That’s why it is so important for sufferers to seek medical advice.
The causes of stress
There are many reasons people suffer stress.
The most common ones include a job they hate, a relationship that is breaking down and debt problems they can’t seem to overcome.
Social media and an overuse of phones and other devices, often dubbed ‘screen time’, can also induce feelings of stress.
Anything that causes pressure, worry or change coupled with the inability to control the situation can be highly stressful.
Medical issues can also cause stress, triggering a self-defeating loop that can be difficult to escape.
The effects of stress
People suffering stress often fall into unhealthy habits that exacerbate their problem.
- withdrawing or failing to share their problems, compounding mental health issues
- Poor eating habits to the detriment of their overall health
- Binge watching TV at the expense of healthier exercise routines
These bad habits amplify the effects of long-term stress on the body which can switch the body’s immune system to inflammatory mode, inviting the onset of any number of irreversible chronic diseases.
It can have catastrophic consequences on so many organs and bodily functions including:
- heart disease and heart attack
- high blood pressure and stroke
- anxiety and depression
- cognitive function including memory and focus
- sleeping problems
- digestive problems including stomach and bowel
- weight gain
- muscle tension and pain
Recognising the signs and symptoms
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to recognise the signs and symptoms of stress.
You just need to be aware of it and know how it presents.
The most commons indicators are:
- changes in appetite
- moodiness or unhappiness
- feelings of being overwhelmed
- increased alcohol or drug use
For short-term stress management, there are a number of strategies you can employ that will aid in easing symptoms.
Exercise – get off the couch! Regular exercise helps boosts endorphin levels, reducing tension and improving and stabilising mood.
It has also been shown to have significant benefits to sleep patterns. This has the overall effect of reducing anxiety levels. Bonus points for exercising outside, exposing yourself to fresh air and vitamin D from the sun.
Mindfulness techniques – mindfulness is the ability to be present in the moment, using your senses to appreciate what is around you without overreacting to it.
Stress is a state of mind so it’s important to treat the problem at the source.
These techniques suppress activity in the brain known as the amygdala which is responsible for switching on your response to stress.
The techniques include:
- swimming or floating in water
- gazing meditation (staring at a single point like a candle flame)
- guided meditation (led by a teacher in person or by audio/visual)
- drinking a cup of tea, slowly
- connecting with nature on long walks
Reach out – it’s important to not deal with stress alone. The simple act of sharing your concerns with another human being with a sympathetic ear has a healing effect.
You may even be convinced that your problems are not as insurmountable as you fear.
Seek medical support
Most people encounter stress at various stages throughout the life.
Some are genetically wired to feel it more than others.
But if it starts to impact on your daily routine, you should seek professional help.
GPs are highly attuned to recognising and treating people who are suffering stress, while fully appreciating the potential ramifications of leaving the condition unattended.
You should not feel any sense of shame or stigma attached to seeking help.
In 2021, the majority of Australians said that stress impacted their physical health (72%) and mental health (64%) but sadly, very few reported seeking professional help.
It’s a number the healthcare industry would very much like to change.
A holistic approach to treating stress supported by a range of healthcare professionals has proven to be very effective for stress management and overall wellbeing.
Book an appointment
Stress is a fact of life few of us can escape from.
But some of us deal with it better than others.
If you feel like you are succumbing to the effects of long-term stress, it’s vitally important to take positive action.
At AHA Clinics, our doctors take the time to really listen to your concerns before suggesting an appropriate course of action.
Don’t suffer in silence; your health is too important.
Book an appointment here today at either our Seaford Road Day and Night Clinic or our Seaford Meadows Day and Night Clinic.