Chronic Stress--Hazardous to Your Health

Is there too much harmful stress in your life?

What is your stress breaking point?
What is your stress breaking point? | Source

Are you Aware of your Stress Triggers?



What a day you’ve had! You were late getting the kids to school, which made you late to work and, subsequently, late to an important staff meeting. The boss calls you into his office afterward to dress you down for your tardiness, which embarrassed him in front of a visiting corporate bigwig. Your workday slides downhill from there.


As you hurry home from work later in rush hour traffic, your car overheats on the freeway. You have to wait for a tow truck and a taxi, during which time you agonize about the blow to your budget from taxis every day until your car is repaired.


Arriving home two hours later than the norm, you’re met at the door by your teenaged son, who informs you in two sentences that (1) he’s somehow managed to break the hardware in his mouth that cost thousands of dollars, and (2) the air conditioner quit sometime today and the interior temperature is 98 degrees.


Small wonder you take to the sofa with a raging headache and icepack on your head, daring anyone in your family to come near you.


Most people have days that rival the one just described. Everyone in our modern world must cope with some degree of stress. It’s part of life. Just think of people who have been living in war-torn areas for years or those residents of third-world countries for whom getting clean water and food to eat takes all their efforts, sometimes to no avail. When compared to that sort of stress, your day looks like a walk in the park. Except that, to you, it doesn’t feel that way.


Stress in small or infrequent amounts isn’t likely to harm you, and may even be beneficial by serving as motivation to get things done without procrastination. However, prolonged stress, accompanied by the well-known “fight-or-flight” syndrome, can actually make you ill. The list of stress-induced physical and emotional symptoms is long, including headaches, stomach upsets, depression, crying spells, muscle spasms, insomnia, loss of hair, rashes and many more that may surprise you. Some research studies have linked continuing stress to impaired functioning of the immune system and increased risk of serious illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer.


Traumatic events, such as divorce or other relationship breakups, death of a loved one, or loss of a job can make a person sick from stress. This is expected. However, what about major happy life events? Can they also cause stress? Yes. Such pleasant occurrences as marriage, the birth of a baby, moving into a new home or a job promotion can increase the tension in your life to a harmful level. If a combination of tension-creating things occur, your whole system may be on stress overload.


The human body isn’t designed to accommodate stress over a long period of time. Every time you tense with anxiety, your body reacts by releasing hormones that make your heart beat faster and your blood vessels constrict. Your blood pressure may rise. These are the effects of the “fight-or-flight” syndrome, which are relatively harmless when they happen infrequently, but can create hypertension and lead to life-threatening strokes, heart attacks, even kidney disease when part of your day-to-day life.


Too much stress can harm your immune system and leave you open to illness.
Too much stress can harm your immune system and leave you open to illness. | Source

How can you Manage Stress?

Now that you realize the dangers of too much stress, what can you do to lessen it? Start by identifying all the sources of stress in your life. Some you may be able to put your finger on readily: jangling phones, work problems, traffic jams, a quarrel with your spouse. These are small irritations that add up to a feeling of anxiety and tensed muscles, sometimes an overpowering feeling of anger, which creates a feeling of guilt, so you repress it. That’s more fuel for the stress machine.

Other stressors may be more difficult to pinpoint. The key to routing them out is to become more aware when and how your body begins reacting to stress. Then ask yourself, “What just happened here? Why am I feeling this way?” Over a period of days, you may begin to recognize a pattern. You may see that certain people or situations always cause you to respond with tension.

Once you’ve established the causes of your chronic stress, the next step is to learn to cope with it in order to lessen its negative effects. Unfortunately, you weren’t born with the ability to cope with stress. Your personality and temperament have a great deal to do with how well you are able to do it once you gain awareness of the triggers. Controlling stress, however, is something you can learn, even if you’re one of those individuals fashioned by nature to be easily distressed and emotion-driven.

If a situation is manageable, do what you can to view it accurately and objectively. Next, try to resolve it. If it is beyond your control, your goal should be to help your body cope with the stress created so it dissipates and doesn’t harm you. There are some proven ways to do that.

It is physically impossible to be both relaxed and tense at the same time, so your first “lesson” will be learning to relax on cue. You should practice the technique of conscious relaxation at home, even if you have only ten to fifteen minutes to yourself.

Go into a quiet dark room and shut the door. Lie down or lean back in a comfortable chair. Close your mind and empty it of thoughts. If this is difficult for you to do, silently repeat a number over and over again like a mantra, “One, one, one, one, one…..” Don’t let worries about unpaid bills or what you should be making for dinner creep in and sabotage your relaxation.

Next, take deep breaths. (When tense, we tend to breathe shallowly.) Fill your lungs, then slowly exhale. Let your body consciously relax by sections—your head, your neck, one shoulder, the other shoulder, one arm, one wrist, one hand—and so on. Let each section go completely limp until your entire body is totally relaxed. With practice, this technique becomes easier and faster to accomplish. Your objective is to ultimately be able to relax the tension in all your muscles just by telling yourself, “Relax.”

Positive visualization is another method of relaxation. What scene makes you feel peaceful? A field of daisies swaying softly in the breeze beneath a blue sky with fluffy white clouds? The shimmering ocean with sunrays glinting off its surface? Whatever it is, close your eyes and concentrate with all your senses on this scene. Smell the flowers or sea air. Feel the texture of grass or sand between your toes. Look at this panaromic scene on the backs of your eyelids and enjoy it. Soon you will feel relaxed.

Here I must add a stress-reducing activity that I was reminded of by justmesuzanne, who recently published a hub about choosing aquarium fish. (See link below.) The hub's accompanying photo of fish swimming is so relaxing I told her just looking at it for a few minutes probably lowered my blood pressure by a couple of points! Actually, watching an actual aquarium is an excellent stress reducer which has been proven to lower blood pressure. It doesn't have to be a large aquarium. A small tank of several fish to watch as they swim will relax you. It's much better for your peace of mind than watching TV. Thanks, Suzanne!

Regular exercise promotes a feeling of well-being by releasing the hormone beta endorphin. It produces a natural “high” and causes you to feel happy. One of the best means of exercise is also the most simple: walking. You can do it almost anywhere, without special clothing or equipment, and it’s free.

Set priorities. Don’t try to be superhuman and accomplish everything. Some tasks are not as important as others. You may have to make choices between activities that are important and those that can be delayed or eliminated. It’s okay to say “no” when asked to serve on another committee or take on another responsibility for which you don’t have time. It’s important to set aside some personal time for yourself, to do the things you enjoy doing. Schedule your life so you don’t have to constantly rush. It may sound trite, but it’s true just the same: You need to stop and smell the flowers.

Develop a sense of humor. Laugh at situations that might otherwise get you down, and learn to laugh at yourself, too. In fact, laughing often is some of the best stress-busting medicine available. This will give you a better perspective about events and shrink a lot of stress-causing mountains into management molehills.

Develop a support system of family and friends. You need a confidante when the going gets rough. Don’t try to hold in all your feelings, especially irritations that can, over time, turn into hostility. You aren’t a pressure cooker, and you don’t need all those emotions building inside you just waiting to explode. Having someone to talk to about stressful issues provides an emotional release valve. Verbalizing them takes away their power to stress you, and this increases your emotional well-being.

Stress won’t disappear from your life, and remember, a certain amount of good stress helps us get things done. You will still have “one of those days” every so often. If you learn to control your stress level and how you react to stressors, you’ll find that things don’t bother you so easily. Stress management is a very important component of staying healthy.


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NOTE: I am the author of this article, and it is owned by me in entirety.It is not available for use by reproducing in any form without my express written permission. If you see all or any part of this article (as written) on another site, please notify me where it can be found. Theft of a writer's work is plagiarism, and stealing another's words is no less wrong than any other theft.

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You can't be relaxed and stressed out at the same time...so, relax!  Try meditation.
You can't be relaxed and stressed out at the same time...so, relax! Try meditation. | Source

© 2011 Jaye Denman

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Comments 44 comments

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 months ago from Deep South, USA Author

Deborah – Thanks so much for your comments. Stress is, indeed, strongly implicated in disease, chronic pain, and even cognitive decline. The good news is that anyone can learn to relax and overcome the negative effects of stress. Hundreds of scientific trials prove that meditation relieves tension, anxiety, and depression. What better motivator to relax than good health and the protection of one’s brain?

Namaste


Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 2 months ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

Great article.

These are very useful tips for dealing with stress. It is the major cause of most illnesses today. I wish everyone would follow your advice and relax a little.

Thanks for writing.

Namaste


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Au fait - I hope you can reduce your stress level before you have a stroke. Even young people are subject to strokes and heart attacks, and stress is a big factor.

Don't let HP get under your skin. I stopped worrying about hub scores or overall member score, don't care if I never get Editor's Choice or HOTD recognition, and I don't expect to because I've been too vocal about issues on the site that the administration should correct.

I usually stay away from the forums (more stress management), but yesterday commented to Paul Edmondson that the HP instructions for upgrading Google Analytics are not clarified in plain language that non-techies can understand. The term 'web properties' didn't explain whether that meant the sub-domain or every hub. Other comments showed that I wasn't the only person confused by the 'explanation.' There goes another asterisk beside my name! I simply don't let it bother me. I will continue to read my favorite HP writers' work and post an occasional hub while I also do other writing outside of HP.

One of Bill Holland's recent articles is a "HubPages Reality Check" in which he addresses the meaninglessness of HP scores. You may want to read it. If nothing else, it will make you laugh--good stress relief!

Take care.....Jaye

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Audrey - When we're busy or anxious, it's so easy to forget to breathe properly. It's good that you are aware when you start breathing shallowly or holding your breath due to stress. Breathing deeply sends more oxygen to your brain and bloodstream, not only reducing stress, but giving you more energy. That's helpful for reducing your anxiety and improving your sense of well-being.

Regards, Jaye


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

I think about this issue frequently and have noticed that when I am really stressed I hold my breath--hence, just breathing --or remembering to, really helps!!


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas

My whole life has never been anything but stress. If it ever went away I would know I had somehow gotten into the wrong body on the wrong planet.

One of the things that adds a ton of stress and very little of anything else is HubPages and I think it's time I took a sabbatical. I've been here for over 3 years and they're still playing the same old headgames, dropping one's hubber score 3 or more points overnight with no explanation or reason. I think this site must be run by psychopaths.

You have a lot of good advice here Jaye. An excellent hub. Voting it up, useful, awesome, and will share.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi, Shyron - Stress is often the cause of insomnia, although sometimes it is caused by hormonal changes. A period of insomnia was the only menopausal symptom I ever experienced. (I know--I was fortunate.)

You just made me realize I should write a hub about the relaxation techniques I learned to use to help me go to sleep. I'll try to get it on HP within a few days, but I have two great-grands coming to stay with me all weekend (an 8-year-old girl and an almost-10 boy), so--as you can guess--I won't be writing! LOL

In the meantime, if reading makes you sleepy, it's better to get ready for sleep, and then read for a short while in bed, turning your reading lamp off the moment you feel drowsy. Don't choose a murder mystery that will wake you even more. Look for something slightly dull in your bookcase.

When I post the sleep relaxation methods hub, you will see it in your feed. I'll also link it to this hub.

Sleep well and blessings to you also,

Jaye


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

I am back to re-read this again. Many years ago I had a book that had a way to help relax and I don't know what I did with it but when I followed the directions, I went to sleep.

Votee up, UAI and shared.

Blessings to you.

Shyron


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Audrey - Brain overload is definitely not good. I've had a few days lately with more stress than I need, so I've been practicing what I preach regarding stress management.

Deep breathing and mindful visualization work really well for me. Another tactic I find helpful (which I don't think I put in the article because it may not create the same effect for others) is a tepid shower and shampoo, the latter using a marvelous tea tree oil shampoo that feels great. I even love the fragrance of tea tree oil, so it acts as aromatherapy as well. By the time I've accomplished all three of those stress management techniques, I'm smiling, and both my mind and body are free of tension.

A phone call from one of my beautiful granddaughters doesn't hurt, either!

Blessings to you too....Jaye


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 2 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hi Jaye. Great article about stress which I often call brain overload. That is what messes up your mind and makes you feel out of control. Your ideas about handling stress are excellent. I know writing is calming and sharpens the brain. Thanks for sharing. Blessings. Audrey.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Shyron - Chronic stress is a killer, and I have to remind myself of that nearly every day. Preventing stress is a good reason for me to take a break from political forums because I get angry when I read some responses. Not good. : )

Jaye


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

Jaye, you really have good advice in this article and I will take them to heart. Everything works against me. When I am on the computer, hubby wants something or I look out and see the grass needs cutting and then when I am cutting, I am thinking about my next article.

Thanks for all the advice. I will make note of these, but no fish. Sorry Susanne, maybe I could borrow you handsome Ray? But on second thought he would not fit on my desktop.

Voted-up, UAI and shared.

Shyron


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi, Audrey - Having your computer hacked is a major stressor, and I hope nothing else of that magnitude stresses you. You're so right that relaxation--even for short periods of time--can help control stress. It's the chronic stress that overwhelms our bodies, especially when it's not controlled. Here's to less stress.... Regards, Jaye


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 2 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hi Jaye You have great suggestions in this hub, and reminders of their importance. The breathing is so important. I had a computer hack and Windows reinstalled, so I hope for better luck. Anyway, even five minutes a day of relaxing can help, as you say. We need to stop and smell the flowers, in addition to your suggestions. Pinning this hub. Take care. Blessings, Audrey Computers are unimportant compared to health.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Colin---I'm so sorry about your health scare two weeks ago. Stress can cause physical symptoms that mimic a heart attack or other major health problems. I'm glad your tests were, for the most part, good and your heart alright. (Your doctor probably told you how to increase your potassium level.)

Here's hoping you find some tips in this article to help you reduce the level of stress in your life. Stress is, indeed, an enemy of good health and happiness. Take good care of yourself....JAYE


epigramman profile image

epigramman 3 years ago

Well Jaye I read this very informative and enlightening hub very closely and carefully as stress seems to be my number one enemy these days.

Even two Mondays ago I put myself into the local ER with a heart condition and extremely high blood pressure. And yes I find myself sleeping a lot more because of physical and mental exhaustion and to also shut the world out. My blood work though turned out fine except for a low potassium level and my heart is fine too.

Thank you for this life saving and life affirming article - I shall definitely bookmark it for future reference and I am sending to you my warmest wishes and good energy from Colin and his cats Tiffy and Gabriel on this sunny day by the lake at lake erie time ontario canada 6:29pm


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks for the vote, feedback and sharing, Aunt Jimi. Everyone should know how to avoid as much stress as possible and, when some stress is inevitable, know how to cope with it.

Jaye


Aunt Jimi profile image

Aunt Jimi 3 years ago from The reddest of the Red states!

Very good ideas for people under a lot of stress which is most people nowadays. Stress kills, no question about it. Voted up and useful and sharing.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Vandynegl--Thanks for your insightful feedback. You're so right about inflammation, which is implicated in so many chronic diseases, and it's a major reason to control stress in one's life.

A friend recently commented that she's surprised I can laugh even when I experience problems. I told her laughter helps me cope with problems that might otherwise cause stress overload. I'm a big fan of laughter!

Thanks for reading--Jaye


vandynegl profile image

vandynegl 3 years ago from Ohio Valley

Super hub! People must realize how harmful stress if for your body and health. The inflammation alone caused from chronic stress is enough to make me think twice! I like the idea of finding humor in things. So many things that we get stressed about are little. Sure, we run into major stressors, but it is important to try to keep perspective what is big and what is not. Finding humor when you can is always worth it. I love reading some of these hubs that are humorous....it is a great stress reliever and highly entertaining! Thank you for sharing!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Paul, for your feedback and various sharing of this article. Stress can, indeed, be deadly.

Jaye


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

Jaye,

This is an excellent and very useful hub about stress and how to manage it. From personal experience, stress over a long period of time can be hazardous to your health. One of my former colleagues suffered from stress before he died. I think his stress intensified after he quit drinking 11-12 years before his death. He eventually developed cancer of the esophagus which took his life 18 months after diagnosis and surgery. Voted up and sharing with followers and on Facebook. Also Pinning and Tweeting


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Au fait...I'll read your hub about depression tomorrow. (My dog is telling me it's now past my bedtime. She "grumbles" when she wants me to call it a day!)

Jaye


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

Excellent hub! Interesting how so many of the same things that can remedy stress also remedy depression, which I have listed in my hub on that subject. Voting you up and awesome!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, carolina muscle...You're so right--most of us are much better off than millions of people. I can only imagine the stress caused by being homeless, hungry and/or unemployed. I appreciate the read and your comments.

Jaye


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

Great advice here, and I especially relate to the part about keeping stuff in perspective--

remembering just how good you got it in comparison to other people in other places really helps.

up and over ... great post, JayeW!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

"Been there, done that" is SO right! Hope my tips are helpful to you. We all need to keep stress at bay for the sake of our physical and mental health.

Thanks for reading, voting and commenting.

Jaye


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Jaye..Stopped by where I knew I'd find some helpful advice....and SURE ENOUGH, you came through for me. You give great advice, almost like you've "been there, done that," which is the ONLY kind of tips I take to heart!! Thanks! Voted Up & useful.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

You're welcome. They're good hubs.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Well, many thanks! I appreciate it! ;D


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

I added that link as well, plus the one you wrote about setting up a new aquarium.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Thank you! Very kind of you! Actually, the one about keeping a betta as a desktop pet is probably better for relaxation information! ;D


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

to justmesuzanne: I added a new paragraph about the relaxation of watching aquarium fish swimming around and the benefits to one's blood pressure. I also added a link to your new hub on choosing aquarium fish at the end of this hub. Thanks for the very good reminder!

Jaye


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

You're so right, Suzanne! I'll go back and add that, now that I've read your hub on aquariums and enjoyed the restful photo of fish. Thanks for jogging my memory.

Jaye


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Great tips, but you forgot to mention watching your aquarium fish! ;D Voted up and awesome!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks. I'll check out your hub. Jaye


vijayanths 5 years ago

Great hub. I have also written a hub on this topic. I think yoga, meditation, soothing music, fulfilling sex with spouse all these things can also help to manage stress.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, toknowinfo...I appreciate your comments, and hope you find the hub helpful. Stress is insiduous, and we all have to watch out that it doesn't get the upper hand! Jaye


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago

Great hub about a subject that affects all of us, frequently. Your ideas are right. Rated up and useful.

Thanks for making life a little easier with your tips.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi, jorja...I'm so sorry about your brother. Stress is a major threat to health, and if I didn't make an effort to control my own stress level, I'd probably become a heart attack statistic. (My younger brother has already had a heart attack and heart bypass surgery.)

One thing that helps me relax is humor. If you're laughing, you can't be tense at the same time! (That's a good reason to read funny hubs!)

Jaye


jorja kick profile image

jorja kick 5 years ago from southeast georgia

Great Hub, greater advice...I had a brother died of a stress related heart attack..Relaxing on cue is hard, we should all try it..

jorja


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, citychick, for reading this hub and for your positive comments. It is, as you suggest, really easy to get stressed-out these days. There are so many stressors with the economy, unemployment, the drop in the housing market, etc. If I allowed myself to dwell on how much of my home equity I've lost, it would require MEGA-MEDITATION to calm me! JAYE


citychick profile image

citychick 5 years ago from Ulster County, New York

Very timely, given our current economic climate! All suggestions are good ones...thanks again, Jaye!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi, Hyphenbird...You can say that again! Stress is, indeed, a killer. It's amazing how many people allow themselves to remain in a stressed-out condition for YEARS, and then wonder why they are ill....JAYE


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

Good advice. Stress is a killer!

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