Stress - The Silent Killer
How is it possible that something can impact the body so powerfully, be more debilitating than a heart attack, more destructive than junk food, and destroy the health and well-being of millions worldwide and yet most people be completely in the dark about it?
Because stress is invisible.
It is silent, and always in stealth mode...
Part of the problem with stress is that it is not a physical thing like a food we can recognize and avoid, or an addiction we can take steps to overcome. Nor is it a physical action we do that we can easily avoid. Many suffer from its ill effects and yet they are not even sure exactly what it is.
What Exactly Is Stress
Stress is a chemical reaction that happens within the body when we get upset, anxious, worried, sad, angry, scared, excited, confused, feel pressured, feel overwhelmed, or feel threatened. We all experience stress throughout the day to some degree, but for millions of people, it is elevated to a chronic state.
We worry about our job, our finances, and about our health. We have strained relationships with our spouses, children, parents, and siblings. We worry about things that have happened in the past, things that are happening today, and things that may or may not happen tomorrow. We have settled into a lifestyle that gives us no time for ourselves, nor for enjoying what life has to offer.
Just how dangerous is stress to our health? In short, it is a killer. It is a contributing factor to many serious health conditions and autoimmune disorders. The impact that stress has on the organs and systems of the body has been proven conclusively to have a devastating consequence to our health and well-being. Stress can be more debilitating than a heart attack.
The sobering fact is that you can eat all the healthy foods you want; trash all the processed foods, eat only organic, and have eating habits that are a shining example to the world. You can engage in a daily exercise program that is tailor made for health and longevity. But if you subject your body to continual stress, your chances of developing a chronic disease skyrocket. The consequences of ignoring the effects of stress are serious.
But many of us are not aware of just how stressed we are. In fact, many of us are chronically stressed and yet have absolutely no idea, which is why stress is now being coined as "The Silent Killer."
A Stressed Out Nation
The United States may be the world's richest nation, but it is far from the healthiest. It ranks top of the scale when it comes to a stress-ravaged population suffering an epidemic of chronic disease. Surveys show that European countries such as Greece, Italy, and France, are much happier and have lower levels of stress, depression, and suicide. The use of drugs for depression and insomnia are a fraction in other parts of the world in comparison to the US.
But why exactly is that?
Healthy Support Structure
There is a direct correlation between societies that have a strong support structure and happy people. The Greeks, for example, talk about their issues openly. Family members, neighbors, and communities are much more close-knit, and when somebody is angry or upset or needs emotional support, it is available to them. They "have it out" - there may be yelling and screaming and tears, but prescription pills are not the norm. Gaining strength from family and friends and neighbors is all the strength they need. Family time is important and meals are not swallowed in two gulps as we race to our next appointment or computer game.
Two of the healthiest states within the US are Vermont and Utah, both of which have developed much stronger support systems than their neighboring states.
We also let the stresses of daily living get the better of us. Our lifestyle choices directly contribute to our stress, as do our careers. We are continually barraged by a constant flow of worries about our job, our financial situation, stressful situations with our children, spouses, parents, and other relationships. We rush around like chickens with our heads cut off, giving ourselves no downtime. Abstract things can also serve to bombard us with stress, such as the daily news, upsetting movies, or not enough time for ourselves. Family gatherings can be very stressful for some people.
The True Impact of Stress
The effects of stress take an emotional, physical, and psychological toll as we literally feel our life force being sapped away from us. From severe, debilitating diseases such as cancer, to early wrinkles showing up before their time, stress plays a part.
Stressful situations are not what actually cause harm to the body. It is how we respond and react to those stressful situations that causes the damage.
Let's take a look at the physical changes that our body undergoes during stress.
Changing the way we respond to stress is the key to reducing it, but understanding the root cause of all stress is the key to eliminating it from your life for good. Learn about some simple lifestyle changes you can make right now to help significantly reduce your level of stress, and how you can conquer that stress gremlin for good.
View Sources & References
- (1) Segerstrom & Miller 2004; Kopp & Réthelyi 2004; McEwen & Lasky 2002; McEwen & Seeman 1999
- (2) Work Related Exhaustion & Telomere Length: A Population-Based Health Study
- The Biology of Belief, by author Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D.