We live in a busy world with endless work and responsibilities piling up, and stress can get the best of us. But can stress kill you? From a biological perspective, stress is good for you. If you are about to be attacked by a lion, stress hormones kick your butt into gear. But it turns out that your mortgage, exam, money, or employment all trigger the same stress response in your body. Unlike most animals, which are able who are eventually able to experience a major decrease in this hormones, humans can’t seem to find the off switch. In Japan, they have the term Karoshi, which translates to “death from overwork”. Millennials are confronted with an overworking epidemic, where individuals who are seemingly healthy and in their prime, suddenly die. After being officially recognized and documented in Japan, these sudden hardtacks and strokes were quickly linked to stress.
What is Stress?
Simply defined, stress is a state or measure wherein you exceed your physical, mental or emotional resistance to a circumstance. Since different individuals have varying levels of tolerance, stress is a subjective measurement.
Causes of Stress
Any circumstance can be a cause of stress. A situation becomes a stressor when the person perceiving (whether real or imagined) it has difficulty in coping with it. Most of the time, these are situations that provoke anxiety and uncertainty. Every individual perceives and reacts to certain situations differently. The stress levels also differ. However, though stress is more subjective in nature, people identify quite some common stressors.
Nowadays, it’s no surprise that women are tremendously stressed out. Their shifting ambitious and the concept of ‘’having it all’’ feeds the mindset that every moment used to decompress is a moment that can be used to get ahead. Many women consider a high paying high responsibility career extremely important. On top of that, women take on multiple roles as they continue with the household and the family responsibility, leaving them with a limited time for their personal interests. Some women perceive all these additional responsibilities and professional endeavors to be a positive force, and others find this a threat where they lose control and experience burnout. The multiple roles that some women have in modern times, can bring a good deal of stress. We live in a culture that doesn’t count what it takes to nurse and raise children, to cook food, to sweep and to care for your home, and have a career.
In the recent American Psychological Association survey on Stress in America (November 2017), a staggering 62% of Americans worry about money matters. Another 43% feel worried about health care. In the 2016 Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health survey, a significant number of 43% of adults find work to have a rather negative impact on their level of stress. The statistics are indeed reflecting what we moms are bothered about. This is alarming, but what is more concerning is that these have not even reflected the other things that we constantly deal with. Being mothers, there are a lot of things that may cause us to get burned out. These may either be external or internal in nature.
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External causes may come from relationship difficulties, life changes, caretaking, being too busy and the like. This may be a heavy burden just like the abovementioned financial concerns. Internal causes like feelings of inadequacy, negative self-talk, pessimism, Inability to be flexible, uncertainty and many others can create stress in the same fashion.
Types of Stress
By nature, our bodies have biological responses that are activated when exposed to perceived stressors. There are two major types of stress. The classification is based on the duration and frequency of the crisis.
1. Acute Stress
The most common type of stress that you and most of us experience. When we get exposed to new situations, that may either challenge, threat or excite our loved ones or us, the fight or flight response is activated.
The flight or flight response causes us to be active to either stay or evade a trigger. Acute stress is short-lived. If this happens quite frequently, it is further classified as episodic acute stress.
In contrast to acute stress, people having episodic acute stress are characterized by pessimism, irritability and short temper that becomes habitual. Making it difficult for lifestyle shifts and leads to negative health effects.
2. Chronic Stress
This happens when something that is bothering you is not resolved and becomes prolonged over long periods of time. Most of the time, you’ll know you are in the chronic stage when you feel you are unable to control the situation.
This can be very harmful to you. Our bodies can tolerate stress in short spans. However, prolonged stress can be very detrimental to our health. A stressed state means that everything in you remains active. All your biological functions are heightened. This will make it difficult for you to get a good rest. Everything in you is working so hard.
In this situation, we need to focus to be able to resolve and get through our stressors. Ironically, chronic stress beclouds the mind. Making it more difficult to break the vicious cycle.
Effects & Impact of Stress in the Human Body especially on Women? Can Stress Kill You?
More than just an emotion, stress is a hardwire physical response that travels through your entire body. Not everyone responds to stress in the same way, but we experience the effects of stress on our minds and bodies in one form or another. It drains our energy and it makes us feel horrible. But what happens if you are under stress for months or even years? You would probably want to leave all your responsibilities behind and move to a secluded area, maybe in a village in Europe, where nobody can bother you or tell you what to do. We all crave that peace and tranquility especially when we are under pressure to complete a project or we have to take tough decisions.
Our bodies need to maintain a certain internal balance or homeostasis. But chronic stress causes us to constantly be in a hyperactive state, and eventually, our body starts to work itself until is not able to function properly. Continuous stress makes your body continually release cortisol. Normally, this hormone keeps the inflammation in check, but after a while, your cells get burn out and become less receptive to the hormone. Inflammation can lead to heart decease, obesity and mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
The activation of fight or flight response is most likely to our advantage. However, when stress becomes chronic, it fails to play a protective role. Instead, it wrecks havoc on your body. The hormones involved in stress can be really bad in high extended doses. This heightened state can cause serious health problems to every body system. It is more disadvantageous for people with certain medical conditions. They are predisposed at the very start. Their bodies may not even be able to handle acute episodes.
Women by nature have higher fat content than men. Having elevated blood pressure for longer periods could further predispose you to heart diseases and stroke. Stress could also rob you of your needed sleep. It is vital to our well-being to have enough sleep. Stress can severely affect our brain and nerve functions. You become fatigued. Stress can cause changes in the normal levels of neurotransmitters. The longer you are stressed, the more you become vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
In the same way, it affects our nerve functions. It decreases our reflexes and our mental ability to a significant degree. This increases our risk of a double-fold. This is evident in the study. Psychosocial stress alters the strength of reticulospinal input to the human upper trapezius conducted by Marker, Campeau, and Maluf. Results indicated that participants performed slightly but significantly worse on mental concentration task in the high stress compared with the low-stress condition.
Stress is harmful to your skin. In a study conducted in 2015, researchers examined the skin of 5,000 participants. It was observed that those under high stress had significantly more skin conditions compared to low stressed participants. This is because stress triggers the release of hormones that cause swelling, irritation or allergies, dryness, and wrinkles, decreases moisture and prolongs wound healing.
Dr. Baron, Director of the Skin Study Center at UH Case Medical Center and Associate Professor of Dermatology at Case Western Reserve University of Medicine, “sleep-deprived women show signs of premature skin aging and a decrease in their skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure.”
Stress is a potent cause of heart disease and heart attacks. This is aggravated especially when you have a Type A personality – competitive, ill-tempered. The chemicals and changes that happen during long-term stress can actually narrow your arteries. More plaque seems to be deposited under chronic stress. It then increases your heart workload which can damage it in the long run. This risk is greatly increased in postmenopausal women due to the absence of the protective functions of estrogen.
Since you metabolize a higher level of free fatty acids and blood sugar at this time. You are most likely to get sick. People with high blood sugar are less likely to fight diseases. More than that, you may experience stress eating. This is a mechanism wherein you turn to food to give you comfort. Since this doesn’t solve the root cause at all, you never get to stop eating. Weight gain is a common consequence of stress eating. Putting on a lot of weight can lead to more problems. You get yourself at risk for gastric acid reflux, diabetes, sleep apnea and liver-gallbladder disease.
Stress may even lead you to be tobacco and alcohol dependent. Since your brain becomes more alert to stomach sensations at this state, it causes excess acid secretion. This may present nausea, ulcers, and pain. Aside from that, it can cause you to become undernourished. Digestion and absorption are hindered by stress. You may also suffer from either constipation or diarrhea.
In chronic stress, muscles are constantly tense as a guarding reaction. This can bring about a host of other stress-related disorders. Fatigue, chronic muscle pain, and headaches are the most common.
Stress can affect your relationship. As a source of fatigue, distraction and health problems, it is the culprit of reducing sex drive in people. It may be so severe that it may cause absent or irregular menstruation. For menopausal women, stress can greatly make its symptoms more difficult to handle. Your premenstrual symptoms may get worse as well.
As what was stated earlier, the immune system shuts down when in stress. Your body focuses the resources on the other areas that are to be kept active. In the long run, it leaves you compromised and prone to infection. While it is still being studied, we can infer that cancer cells will have more room to multiply if the immune system is weakened.
Why Does Stress Have Heavy Impact On Women
In most of the cases, women suffer from excess stress because they carry multiple roles at the same time. Identifying causes and symptoms of stress can help you find your way out of it. The most common issues that can cause stress in women are work-related problems, relationships or financial difficulties, and health problems.
A Video From TED-ED by Sharon Horesh Bergquist Explaining How is Stress Affecting Our Body
Why Does Stress Making You Old?
As we have talked about the mechanisms of stress in the prior topics. It is easier to point out that stress can advance aging as it disrupts the normal activity of body systems. Chronic stress causes inefficient digestion and intestinal absorption of nutrients. Simply stated, even if you may be tempted to eat a lot, you may end up not getting the most important constituents of nourishment from it. Apart from that, chronic stress causes the nerves to constrict. This results in poor circulation to the skin surface. A dull appearance and slow skin healing can result thereof. Dull and dry skin is the first cause of premature aging. The skin’s inability to regenerate such as what happens when we sleep makes it worse.
Revitalizing rest and sleep is also greatly reduced in quality and quantity during chronic stress. Lack of sleep is pointed out as a major cause of premature skin aging and decreased the ability to recover from photodamage. You may tend also to go through a stress-eating episode. An added weight can make us look older. Metabolism is also reduced to a minimum at this time. Besides, when we are stressed, our brains are wired to focus on what is stressing us. In the process, we lose our attention to grooming. We are likely to end up looking like a mess.
Stress just wear us down. Women feel that to be productive you have to be stressed out, and that is just not the case. Managing stress enables you to be more productive and to get more done at the end of the day.
What Foods Fight the Effects of Stress?
Nature has a lot of superfoods that can help you cope with stress. Here are the TOP 7 on the list:
Bananas are rich in tryptophan. The body converts this protein into serotonin, a mood-elevating substance that helps you feel relaxed and happier. Besides, we haven’t seen a sad monkey after all. Aside from that, it is a good source of energy. It has been linked to helping a lot of other disorders most specifically mental health in nature.
Dark green leafy vegetables
The dark green leaves contain high amounts of folate. This signals your body to produce more serotonin and dopamine (mood-regulating neurotransmitters). The research from the University of Warwick indicates that consuming at least 8 servings of fruit and vegetables can substantially increase people’s later happiness levels.
Food that is fermented or are containing probiotics maintains a healthy gastrointestinal system. It increases brain function and improves stress levels. These beneficial bacteria were found to regulate mood suppressing substance levels in certain brain regions and corticosterone stress hormone as well.
Vitamin D Rich food
Eating the right amount of mushroom, salmon and egg yolks can be a good source of vitamin D. This can be readily used by the body upon sun exposure. The combined benefits of the food and the sun exposure can increase the mood elevator – serotonin. Doing such can help stabilize your mood.
Seeds and Nuts
Seeds and nuts are high on magnesium. Magnesium is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Magnesium deficiency has been identified to trigger more stress and mental health problems. Pistachios can also be consumed for the added benefit of dilating your constricted nerves during stress.
Sipping on a dark chocolate significantly makes you feel calmer. It can also load you with antioxidants. Chocolate promotes the production of the neurotransmitter anandamide, that blocks pain and other negative feelings for some time.
Power fruits like Avocado and Blueberries
Avocado contains just the right fats to keep you satiated for longer periods. It is also rich in magnesium that helps increase your serotonin levels. Blueberries, on the other hand, are rich in the antioxidant anthocyanins. This antioxidant help in the production of dopamine that regulates memory, mood, and coordination.
What Are The Things You Can Do And Avoid To Reduce Stress
If you are chronically stressed, there is some hope. We should start by being more awake, able to determine and discriminated what’s better versus what’s not. What the actual stress comes down to is uncomfortable energy. We all can remember moments where we felt the negative emotions and the unsavory thoughts taking charge of our minds. That is what is giving us the trouble. When the emotional energy and the discomfort are rising up within us, the best thing is to acknowledge it and to pause. Moments like that call for us to feel them, to breath, and consciously be aware of our thoughts.
Remedies that Fights Stress
Aside from a nutrient-packed diet, we have another super 7 reliable natural remedies to fight stress.
Meditation and prayer can be very forgiving and liberating. It surely is a good source of assurance and strength to keep on. It gives the much-needed peace of mind that has been evading you recently. This is an age-old remedy. It is convenient to employ, has great benefits with no cost at all. One that works well when you employ the right breathing and mind-conditioning techniques.
Spending time outdoors more often
Being out in nature makes you more receptive to the good things nature has to offer. The benefits of sunshine and fresh air are on top of this list. Doing so gives you also more time to socialize with others. It opens up the opportunity to seek help and create a sense of belongingness. It eventually helps you redirect your perspectives to be more of value. Retracting you from your own stressors to make other people happy.
Exercise and Yoga
Exercise is one of the best coping methods for stress. It is effective as it encourages the release of endorphins in your brain that is effective against pain and in boosting mood. Inactivity during times of stress can aggravate the problem. Yoga at the same time can address concerns over physical and psychological states. Research has proven the significant improvements achieved.
Music that comes with these activities can be very beneficial as well. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system (a system that helps us relax). This breaks the stress cycle. Hormonal balance and mental functioning are regulated sooner.
There is no better way to vent out all our emotions effectively without causing nuisance or creating a scene. This can even pave the way to a more effective catharsis and introspection. Aside from that, you can enhance your writing prowess and may even find the formula to stress relief. This journal may come in handy like thousands of others that became a worldwide hit.
A lot of literature has been written on the proven effects of acupuncture on stress-related conditions. Trying this will not only give you stress-relieving benefits but can also cater to other related health problems. Acupuncture normalizes cardiovascular, immune, endocrine and nervous system functions.
Most people experiencing mental disorders had some trouble in dealing with the stressors that caused such condition. When you feel you can’t control such, a trip to the therapist can be the best solution. Therapists trained in Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you better react to situations that you perceive as stressful. This helps you develop behaviors and perceptions that help you cope.
Recommended Products That Helps Fight Stress
100% Pure Therapeutic Grade Stress Relief Blend
This essential oil is tailor fit to help improve mood and ease anxiety, depression, and stress. The calming aroma blend is responsible for effectively reducing stress and gives a better feeling instantly. It comes with a 10 ml, 30 ml, and 60 ml amber glass which has the UV protection capability, and a European dropper cap that enables easy dispensing. A few drops in the wrists or feet can already provide the soothing and calming effect. It is a perfect treat for the body and mind that are too stressed and tired after a hard day’s work.
Magnum Solace Dead Sea Magnesium Oil
The Dead Sea isn’t dead after all, because it produces one of the best alternatives for pain and stress relief called, the Magnesium Oil Spray. Aside from the given benefits of Magnesium such as metabolizing fatty acids and helpful in neuromuscular transmission, this also helps in providing superb muscle relaxation and improves sleep quality. The product is 100% pure, odorless and has gone through intensive purification. Therefore, it is proven safe to apply to skin. It is the nature’s reward of relief to make any stress or pain a spray away!
Rakaposhi Natural Himalayan Salt Rock Lamp
The Rakaposhi Himalayan Lamp is directly extricated from the rich Himalayan Mountains in Pakistan and manually shaped for a unique handmade look. It secures a clean and purified air for breathing, that is vital in improving a person’s overall health. It neutralizes electromagnetic radiation which mainly causes fatigue or stress. The lamp can also block contaminants that are appending stress to the body. It helps a natural and ideal ambiance of a healthy atmosphere. It keeps the surrounding calm and conducive to meditation and total relaxation.
Adamia Therapeutic Repair Lotion
Macadamia Oil is known as a relief for different skin problems, particularly, a dry skin. The Adamia Therapeutic Lotion with Macadamia Nut Oil and Promega-7 offers to solve same, however, in a more intense way. The product mimics the skin’s natural oils that enable fast absorption and penetrates the skin instantly. The good thing is, the product does not leave a greasy and heavy residue. Instead, it provides a renewed, restored and evenly moisturized skin. Skin irritation is downright annoying and stressful. But, thanks to this product it is now easier to finally kiss the hurting skin goodbye.
Lavender Essential Oil – Essential Oil Labs
Capping up a long day may have been the most exciting part, but it is also when stress and body pains are mostly felt. Lavender Essential Oil with its 100% therapeutic effect is a perfect solution for fatigue, stress or body pain to slide away. Aside from the soothing calming effect, it can be a topical application to minor burns, small cuts or rashes. Only a few drops of oil in the diffuser can already secure a restful sleep. Miraculously, it can also improve the skin’s complexion and cure problems such as wrinkles and age spots. Indeed, this is an all-in-one oil that every hardworking person must have. It also comes with different scents, however, lavender is one, if not the best-seller in the market today.
Life is short, don’t make it shorter. Enjoy life, even that means overcoming obstacles and trials. Wake up with a smile, chin up! Remember that stress may not immediately kill you but it surely can in the long run and if left unattended. So next time anyone asks, Can Stress Kill You? Don’t hesitate to share what you found out.