Chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart, disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. Life is full of stress and it affects young and old alike, rich and poor. Stress is a silent killer.
Simply put, stress is what we experience when we are confronted with a problem that we don’t have the resources to solve or cope with. Stress can negatively affect your health even if you’re doing all the right things. This is not to say that one should not eat healthily; it’s still important to keep the body’s defenses up should something come up. Eating a nutritionally balanced diet remains important, but the main key is in your lifestyle. It’s necessary to evaluate your lifestyle and assess areas that need to be improved.
Stress is a normal and everyday part of life, but when it becomes chronic, it is called distress.
Extended Periods of Stress
Daily stressors are to be expected—traffic, workload, disagreements at home, etc. However, holding in anger, guilt, resentment, and the like, can cause a build-up, lowering our immune function. Research shows that chronic stress can affect every system in the body. Imagine being on a constant fight-or-flight response. Once the supposed danger subsides, the body will return to its normal heart rate and breathing. However, if the stress is chronic, this period continues and can trigger a plethora of illnesses.
Chronic stress puts you more at risk for diseases. It causes an immune response that compromises its effectiveness and leads to inflammatory reactions. It can cause unwanted weight gain, pre-diabetic symptoms, and poor digestion. There is a link to stress and allergic reactions, GERD, inflammatory bowel disease, coronary heart disease, hypertension, cancer, hormone imbalance, and more. Hormonal imbalance is linked to anxiety, depression, infertility, menstrual disturbances, and aging. Not all will develop an illness or react the same way to stress, but the bottom line is that stress suppresses our immune system. Since the body and mind sympathize, poor digestion can also cause fluctuations in our emotional and mental well-being.
Mental health is important because it affects the quality of life, enjoyment of it, and the ability to perform and contribute. It should be taken seriously as individuals, families, society, church, and world. With that being said, take a look at…
Causes & Effects of Stress on the Body
The body is amazing in how it adjusts to situations. When we understand how the body operates, the puzzle pieces come together on how to manage stress effectively. Since stress causes a fight-or-flight response in the body, that means the body is preparing itself to handle danger. When there is no threat posed and it is simply chronic stress,
What we eat is linked to our overall well-being. The life is in the blood, and what we eat makes up our blood. Diets full of refined sugars and carbohydrates, chemicals, processed foods, and stimulating compounds like caffeine causes immune reactions, digestive issues, and leads to disease. We may find ourselves experiencing headaches, migraines, fatigue, and irritability.
Toxins are found in our environment and the products we use at home
Depression, anxiety, anger, guilt
Insecurity about job advancement or termination, dangerous work conditions, work harassment, job discontentment, long work hours
Major Life Changes
A death in the family, divorce, job loss, moving, illnesses or injuries, and traumatic events like theft, violence, or even rape.
Fear and uncertainty, unrealistic expectations, your attitude and perceptions
Life doesn’t always turn out the way we think. I experienced things that I thought I would never be susceptible because how watchful I am with my plant-based diet. However, as mentioned previously, stress tends to overpower that. However, note that good nutrition and exercise helps keeps things under control when stress overwhelms.
I recall stressful periods in my life in which I experienced negative health consequences. I was faced with an unusual and draining situation that caused me to be on constant eggshells. The complexity of the situation continued to worsen. Before I knew it, I became extremely dizzy. For two months, it was difficult to function without having vertigo attacks. Sleeping at night became difficult because my vertigo was accompanied by anxiety. Vertigo can be triggered by stress, and sure enough, I was diagnosed with a stress-related, anxiety-induced vertigo. As the situation passed, so did my anxiety and vertigo. I felt that I hit a low point in my life, and I knew I had to do something within my control.
All this time, I had not changed anything in my diet, and according to the doctors, my health was fine, and the blood tests always came back just fine. Since then, I have learnt to manage intense and unexpected stress more effectively, as well as change my attitude towards intense situations. This is what made the difference in being able to keep my health better intact when faced with external stressors that are beyond my control.
Don’t Stress About It
It isn’t enough to be knowledgeable about what stress does to the body, but it’s critical to take it one step further and learn how to manage and reduce stress. Sometimes we aren’t entirely sure how to deal with our stress, because we can’t see it. Here are proven methods that I have seen help me in my own life.
- Prayer & God’s Word – Starting my day this way gives me peace and a much smoother day. I give God my burdens and feel much lighter as I go throughout my day.
- Gratitude – Cultivating thankfulness helps prevent complaining and wallowing.
- Help Others – Helping others takes our minds off ourselves, and in tune with the realities and needs of others less fortunate than our own.
- Lifestyle: Exercise, Proper Nutrition, Sunshine, Air, Rest, Water, Temperance – A balanced lifestyle is the best way to handle stress in life.
“It is not work that kills; it is worry.” – 2MCP 466
Stress and worry are linked. Worry makes the situation heavier and causes more stress. I have found that by taking my worries to God and leaving them there has helped me avoid worry! It is truly a liberating thing to experience. Moderate amounts of stress increase performance, but chronic stress poses health hazards.
This is one of my all-time favorite Bible verses that keeps things in perspective for me and reminds me that I can experience peace and not fall victim to the silent killer: stress.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.