Some of us thrive on having the adrenaline pumping, but just how harmful is stress to our health? The answer, in short, is very harmful.
Stress is the pressure that we feel in response to strenuous external factors, such as pressure at work, in relationships or financial matters. Too much stress is usually associated with a feeling of being overwhelmed and unable to cope. This can place a significant amount of strain on the body, causing cortisol levels to rise and inflammation around the body to occur.
During times of high stress, the body’s fight-or-flight-response is activated, triggering the sympathetic nervous system to raise both the heart rate and blood pressure. Because the body has to work harder to handle the challenge (real or perceived), it can become fatigued and more susceptible to illness and infection. Prolonged exposure to stress has been linked to numerous serious health conditions, ranging from cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure to diabetes and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Stress does not only have physical effects on the body, it also affects our emotional health, our thoughts and our behaviours. Mental health conditions including anxiety and depression can be caused or exacerbated by stress. Similarly, stress can lead to negative and harmful behaviours, such as smoking, heavy drinking or weight problems, which can further damage your health or lead to death.
Stress is a very real and serious problem. While it may not directly cause death, stress can be fatal indirectly through a related disease, mental health condition or harmful behaviour.
Stress cannot be avoided altogether; it is part and parcel of life. But steps can be taken to minimise the level of stress that you experience and how you respond to it. According to the Better Health Channel website, ensuring that you exercise regularly, eat well, have a regular sleep routine, lead a balanced life with time for both relaxation and enjoyment, and avoid conflict as much as possible, are the best ways to reduce stress in your life.
If you are concerned about your level of stress you may wish to speak to your GP about your options for management and treatment.