Chronic stress, many of us are experiencing it in today’s fast paced and rapidly changing society. So much has been written about it lately, and for good reason . Chronic stress is being named as the # 1 cause for many of today’s degenerative dis-eases. Why is stress so bad for us? What can we do on a daily basis to not only feel and perform better, but to also effectively counteract the deleterious effects of this silent killer?
Chronic stress can be defined as an unpleasant state of emotional and physiological arousal that people experience in situations that they perceive as dangerous. The word stress means different things to different people. Some people define stress as events or situations that cause them to feel tension, pressure, or negative emotions such as anxiety and anger. Others view stress as the response to these situations. This response includes physiological changes – such as increased heart rate and muscle tension as well as emotional and behavioral changes. However, most psychologists regard stress as a process involving a person’s interpretation and response to a threatening event.
Stress is a common experience. We may feel stress when we are very busy, have important deadlines to meet, or have too little time to finish all of our tasks. Often people experience stress because of problems at work or in social relationships, such as a poor evaluation by a supervisor or an argument with a friend. Some people may be particularly vulnerable to stress in situations involving the threat of failure or personal humiliation. Others have extreme fears of objects or things associated with physical threats – such as snakes, illness, storms, or flying in an airplane – and become stressed when they encounter or think about these perceived threats. Major life events, such as the death of a loved one, can cause severe stress.
If not managed appropriately, chronic stress can lead to serious problems. Exposure to chronic stress can contribute to both physical illnesses, such as heart disease, and mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders.
The field of health psychology focuses in part on how stress affects bodily functioning and on how people can use stress management techniques to prevent or minimize disease. A person who is stressed typically has anxious thoughts and difficulty concentrating or remembering. Stress can also change outward behaviors. Teeth clenching, hand wringing, pacing, nail biting, and heavy breathing are common signs of stress. People also feel physically different when they are stressed. Butterflies in the stomach, cold hands and feet, dry mouth, and increased heart rate are all physiological effects of stress that we associate with the emotion of anxiety.
When a person appraises an event as stressful, the body undergoes a number of changes that heighten physiological and emotional arousal. First, the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system is activated. The sympathetic division prepares the body for action by directing the adrenal glands to secrete the hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). In response, the heart begins to beat more rapidly, muscle tension increases, blood pressure rises, and blood flow is diverted from the internal organs and skin to the brain and muscles. Breathing speeds up, the pupils dilate, and perspiration increases. This reaction is sometimes called the fight-or-flight response because it energizes the body to either confront or flee from a threat.
Another part of the stress response involves the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, parts of the brain that are important in regulating hormones and many other bodily functions. In times of stress, the hypothalamus directs the pituitary gland to secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone. This hormone, in turn, stimulates the outer layer, or cortex, of the adrenal glands to release glucocorticoids, primarily the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol helps the body access fats and carbohydrates to fuel the fight-or-flight response.
Researchers have clearly identified stress, and specifically a person’s characteristic way of responding to stress, as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. The release of stress hormones has a cumulative negative effect on the heart and blood vessels. Cortisol, for example, increases blood pressure, which can damage the inside walls of blood vessels. It also increases the free fatty acids in the bloodstream, which in turn leads to plaque buildup on the lining of the blood vessels. As the blood vessels narrow over time it becomes increasingly difficult for the heart to pump sufficient blood through them.
Stress also appears to influence the development of cancer, but the relationship is not as well established as it is for cardiovascular diseases. There is a moderate positive correlation between extent of exposure to life stressors and cancer – the more stressors, the greater the likelihood of cancer. In addition, a tendency to cope with unpleasant events in a rigid, unemotional manner is associated with the development and progression of cancer.
What can we do on a daily basis to effectively counteract this silent killer?
There are several things that can be done. Not in any particular order, these are exercise, meditation, talking to someone about chronic stress seems to help. You can also look into using proven vibrational medicine techniques to reduce chronic stress 24/7.
We cannot avoid stress. It is a daily reality. Yet, when your mind/body is consistently placed in a vibrationally balanced state signalization frequencies (vibrational medicine methods), you are able to deal with and effectively counteract the many negative effects of daily stress. Stress seems to almost roll off of you.