Risks Of Stress

What is Stress?

Stress can be defined as the three way relationship between demands on individuals, our feelings about those demands and our ability to deal with them.  Stress happens more often in situations where:  

1.  Demands are high. 

2.  The amount of control we have is low. 

3.  There is very little support or help available for us. 

Who is affected the most by stress? 

Nearly everybody experiences stressful events or situations that overwhelm our natural coping mechanisms.  Even though some individuals are biologically prone to stress, there are many outside factors that influence susceptibility also. 

Studies show that some people are more vulnerable to the cause of stress than others.  Older adults; women in general, particularly working mothers and pregnant women; less educated people; divorced or widowed people; individuals experiencing financial strains such as long-term unemployment; individuals who are the targets of discrimination; uninsured and underinsured people; and individuals who simply live in cities all seem to be mostly vulnerable to health related stress problems.  

Individuals who are less emotionally stable or have high anxiety levels have a tendency to experience some events as more stressful than healthy people do.  And not having an established network of family and friends predisposes us to stress related health problems like heart disease and infections.  Caregivers, children and medical professionals are also commonly found to be at higher risk for stress-associated disorders. 

Workplace stress is particularly likely to be chronic because it represents such a big part of life.  Stress decreases a worker's effectiveness by impairing concentration, causing sleeplessness and increasing the risk of illness, back problems, accidents and lost time.  At its worst extremes, stress that places a burden on people’s hearts and circulation can habitually be fatal.  The Japanese have a word for sudden death attributable to overwork: karoushi. 

Medical Effects of Chronic Stress 

The risks of stress usually depend on the severity of the stress on the individual.  The stress reaction of the body is like an airplane getting ready to take off.  Practically all systems, like the heart and blood vessels, the immune system, the digestive system, the lungs, the sensory organs, and the brain are adapted to meet the perceived danger. 

A stress-filled life really appears to increase the odds of heart disease and stroke down the road.  Researchers have discovered that after middle-age, those who report chronic stress face a somewhat higher risk of fatal or non-fatal heart disease or stroke over the years.  It is now believed that constant stress takes its toll on our arteries, causing chronically high levels of stress hormones and pushing individuals to maintain unhealthy habits like smoking. 

Stressed-out men are twice as likely as their peers to die of a stroke.  There are weaker such findings among women, which is possibly due to the rather low number of heart disease and stroke cases among women, as opposed to a resistance to the health causes of chronic stress.  Women seem slightly more prone to the causes of stress than men. 

Simply put, a lot of stress places you at dire risk for health problems.  Whether it comes from one event or the accumulation of many small events, stress causes big physical alterations that sometimes can lead to health problems.  Here is a list of several of these changes: 

·         Our heart rates rise, to move blood to our muscles and  brains. 

·         Our blood pressures rise. 

·         Our digestion slows down. 

·         Our breathing rates increase. 

·         Our perspiration goes up. 

·         We feel a rush of strength first, but after a while stress makes us feel weaker. 

These responses facilitated our ancestors to survive threats by preparing for either "fight or flight." Nowadays, our bodies still react the same way, but the events that cause stress do not need this ancient method. 

Other Medical risks of stress consist of: 

·         Headaches 

·         High blood pressure 

·         Ulcers and digestive disorders 

·         Migraine headaches 

·         Backaches 

·         Depression 

·         Stroke 

·         Heart attack 

·         Alcohol and drug dependencies 

·         Allergies and skin diseases 

·         Suicide 

·         Cancer 

·         Asthma 

·         Depressed immune system 

·         More colds and infections 

We should learn ways to relieve stress, because when it continues to hurt us for very long or happens so repeatedly, it evidently can cause many serious health problems.