Death, Taxes and Stress
The old adage states, “The only things required in life are death and taxes.” I’d like to add stress to the list. It seems that in all walks of life stress happens. Today we will look at different types of stress, intensity of stress, what stress does to the body, and identifying and managing the inevitable stresses that we face each day. Finally, I will suggest some interventions that have shown to be very effective.
The CDC states that stress causes 50% of work related illnesses and 80% of those are serious illness or disease. The financial costs of stress include increased insurance premiums, increased illness and disease, and decreased productivity or income.
Types of Stress
Fields of stress (chemical, physical, electromagnetic and emotional)
Euphoric stress: Exercise
Destructive stress: Broken arm
Emotional Stress (external or internal)
Euphoric stress: Meeting the deadline at work
Distress: Missing the deadline at work
Euphoric stress: The new puppy
Distress: Loss of man’s best friend
Euphoric stress: excitement felt when you fall in love
Distress: during a fight with the fellow you fell in love with
Frequencies from electrical, electronics, electromagnetics in our environment – decrease our ability to absorb nutrients
Chemical & Nutritional Stress
Toxins and poor Nutrition cause chemical & nutritional stress
Post Traumatic Stress
Acute stress is a common form of stress. Acute stress can be Good Stress (Euphoric acute stress) such as a thrilling ride at a theme park or a challenging video game. Acute Euphoric Stress includes a great workout, when something really exciting happens, or you receive fantastic news. The body is intensely and quickly flooded with the feel-good hormones like Dopamine and Oxytocin. But it only remains healthy when in small doses.
Acute Distress comes from the pressures of the recent past, difficulties of the present, and the anticipation of near future demands. It is the most respectful of your body’s built in response system. It is this response system that triggers the fight or flight response and produces hormones like Adrenaline and Cortisol. It keeps us safe and the body will wash away the extra hormones when the danger is passed. Some Cortisol residue is left behind in the body that can be eliminated with physical exercise. Too much acute stress is exhausting and burns out the adrenal system. Overdoing short-term stress (as in the video games) can lead to psychological distress, tension headaches, stomach and intestinal issues, and other symptoms.
Most of us recognize acute stress as a laundry list of things gone wrong in our lives: the fender bender this morning, loss of an important client at work, rushing to meet a deadline, problems with the children, and so on.
Because these are short-term issues, acute stress doesn’t have enough time to impact our lives with the type of damage associated with long-term stress. The most common symptoms of acute stress are:
- Emotional distress — some combination of anger/irritability, anxiety, and depression, the three stress emotions.
- Muscular problems including; tension headache, back pain, jaw pain and the muscular tensions that lead to pulled muscles and tendon and ligament problems.
- Stomach, gut and bowel problems such as heartburn, acid stomach, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Transient over-arousal leads to elevation in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, heart palpitations, dizziness, migraine headaches, cold hands or feet, shortness of breath and chest pain.
Acute stress can crop up in anyone’s life, and it is highly treatable and manageable as we will see later.
Episodic Acute Stress
When acute stress occurs frequently it is called Episodic Acute Stress. It can also have a euphoric state that actually is the most productive state in our lives. This is where “real” productivity exists, but be sure to build in significant amounts of rest and relaxation. Even in this stress condition, free radicals can be created so be sure to take steps to counter any free radicals being made by the body and to repair free radical damage that has already happened by taking a strong anti-oxidant.
Words like fun, happiness, success, peace, joy, laughter, fulfillment, spirit and love exist within this stress experience. When we are in a state of chronic euphoric stress, our bodies have very high levels of the feel good hormones like Dopamine, Endorphins, Nitric Oxide and Oxytocin. These hormones make it possible for us to have high levels of self-esteem and to have really strong relationships in all areas of your life, whether they are romantic, parental or work-related.
However there is a dangerous side to acute stress. This includes those who suffer acute distress often: those whose lives seem to be in ongoing chaos or crisis; who seem to always be in a rush, but are always late; those who live within the realm of Darwin’s law regularly; people who take on too much, have too many irons in the fire, or can’t organize the many self-inflicted demands that push for their attention. They are perpetually in the tight grasp of episodic acute stress.
It is common for people with episodic acute stress reactions to be over-aroused, short-tempered, irritable, anxious and tense. They will describe themselves as having lots of ‘nervous energy.’ They are always in a hurry, are abrupt and sometimes irritable (that may seem like hostility.) Interpersonal relationships may suffer and work becomes stressful.
Those experiencing Episodic Acute Distress are compared to the ‘Type A’ personality that tend to be cardiac prone. Type A’s tend to have a competitive drive, aggressive, impatient, and a sense of time urgency, as well as a well-rationalized form of hostility and, in many cases, deep-seated insecurity. Type A’s and people with Episodic Acute Stress are more likely to develop coronary heart disease according to cardiologists.
Another form of Episodic Acute Stress is consistent or non-stop worrying. The ‘Worry Wart’ experiences anticipated stress expecting a disaster around every corner. They are pessimistic and forecast devastation in every situation. They see the world as a dangerous place with horrible things waiting to happen at any time. They are over-aroused and tense, anxious and depressed, but are rarely angry or hostile.
Symptoms of Episodic Acute stress build over time: persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain, and heart disease. Intervention generally requires professional intervention and may take months to improve. Issues of lifestyle and personality are habitual and they do not see an issue with how they perceive the world nor think that their response can lead to the health issues they are dealing with. They usually blame others or external events for their problems. Lifestyle, personality, interpersonal communication, and perception of the world all play a role in who and what they are. They can be very resistant to change unless a promise of relief from pain and discomfort brings them in for treatment and helps keep them on track in their recovery.
While acute stress can be thrilling and exciting, chronic stress is not. Chronic Stress is long lasting or recurrent bad or distress. This is the worst type of stress in our lives, it is also the most common. When left unchecked, the body produces extreme amounts of free radicals that lead to oxidative stress.
Chronic stress is the catalyst to most health problems. The body is constantly flooded with emergency response fight or flight hormones and the Endocrine system becomes over-used causing dis-ease.
Neurobiology of stress
Your body is wired to react to stress in certain ways in order to protect you against lions, tigers and bears. Such threats are rare today, but that doesn’t mean that life is free of stress. Staying in good or bad stress for extended periods or on a repeated basis, will cause the body to create millions of free radicals, leading to extreme free radical damage or oxidative stress, which then leads to serious chronic degenerative disease (CDDs). More than 200 known CDD’s are believed to be caused by oxidative stress, of which about half are inflammatory diseases and the other half are auto-immune diseases.
Actually, you face multiple paper tigers every day, such as managing a heavy workload, making ends meet and caregiving for family members. Your body reacts to these daily hassles as if they were tigers. As a result your body responds as if you’re constantly under assault. But you can fight back. There are healthy ways to manage the stressors.
Staying in Acute or Chronic Distress will eventually cause health issues like Panic Attacks, Anxiety, Depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and a whole host of other illnesses. With the residue of Cortisol remaining in your body you will very likely gain a lot of weight and get very fat (usually around the middle).
First, understand what the body is doing
When you encounter a paper tiger (perceived threat) — a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance — your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located at the top of your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.
Cortisol also slows functions that are nonessential or detrimental in the fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.
When the natural stress response goes wrong
The body’s stress-response system usually has a limit control. Once the threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems resume their regular activities.
However, when stressors are persistent and you have constant paper tigers coming at you, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on; keeping your blood pressure and blood sugar elevated, suppressing your digestive and immune systems, and causing many health concerns.
The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and in turn the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes. This increases your risk of numerous health problems, including:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Decreased sexual drive
- Memory and concentration impairment
It is important to learn healthy ways to cope with the stressors in your life.
Individual reactions to stress
Your reaction to a stressful event is different from anyone else’s. How you react to stressors in your life is affected by such factors as:
- The genes that control the stress response keep most people on a fairly even keel, only occasionally priming the body for fight or flight. Overactive or underactive stress responses may stem from slight differences in these genes.
- Life experiences. Strong stress reactions sometimes can be traced to traumatic events. People who suffered neglect or abuse as children tend to be particularly vulnerable to stress. The same is true of victims of violent crime, airplane crash survivors, military personnel, police officers and firefighters.
You may have some friends who seem laid-back about almost everything and others who react strongly at the slightest stress; most reactions to life stressors fall somewhere between those extremes.
Learning to react to stress in a healthy way
Some stressful events are just part of life. For some, these events may be more stressful than for others, even leading to disorder (PTSS/PTSD). You may not be able to change your current or past situations. You may not feel like you can overcome the traumas. But you can take steps to manage the impact they have on you.
You can learn to identify stressors and triggers and how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the face of stressful situations. Creating a life balance (homeostasis) will be a key. Balancing life, work, family, nutrition, exercise, and techniques will improve the way stress impacts your life – and your health!
Stress management strategies include:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Regular exercise
- Plenty of sleep
- Practice relaxation techniques or mindful meditation
- Foster healthy friendships
- Have a sense of humor
- Get a Massage
- Use an Infrared Bio-Mat
- Use Acupuncture for stress management
- Find a Life Coach
- Positive affirmations and visualization techniques
- Seek professional counseling when needed