FEELING STRESSED OFTEN? THIS ARTICLE IS FOR YOU!
Stress; everyone has it, everyone complains about it, and everyone feels the brunt of it. We have heard many people complaining, “I can’t take this stress anymore” or “this is too stressful.” However, how many of us actually take charge of this silent killer?
Defining stress is not easy. It affects different people in different ways. Some people are better equipped to handle stress than others do. In the rare event of a threat, humans instinctively have a chemical reaction in the body to help cope with the situation. The increased heart rate, blood pressure and burst of energy are a defense mechanism against stress, which are meant to be temporary. However, what people do not realise is that the overpowering levels of anxiety, tension, and everyday mental trauma we face, cause a similar reaction.
While humans are designed to handle small bouts of stress, chronic stress does not come without ill consequences. The nature of work is one of the main causes of stress according to experts. People who are most prone to stress are heavy manual workers, long distance drivers and pilots along with professionals in health care, business, sales, law, journalism, bureaucracy.
Stress affects us when we least expect it. Anything from an unexpected visitor or extensive use of gadgets to constant deadlines at work can cause stress. While things might not seem very significantly stressful at that moment, in the long run, chronic stress has major pernicious impacts on the person’s physical as well as psychological well-being.
Health related Quality of Life (HrQoL)
The popular notion of quality of life relates to only basic health and wealth of the population. However, health-related quality of life (HrQoL) is a concept that goes a step beyond. It is a multi-dimensional concept of life that includes physical, emotional, and social functioning. The objective of HrQoL is to assess physical health and general well-being. Talking about life satisfaction, positive emotions, energy/fatigue, and pain, the HrQoL draws a line between health and an individual’s ability to function and perceive their well-being in physical, mental and social domains of life. Public health officials use HrQoL to measure the effects of chronic illness, treatments, and short- and long-term disabilities.
Studies show that symptoms of stress such as a change in sleep pattern and loss of appetite lead to morbid distress and biological dysfunction. Long working hours, heavy workload, tight deadlines, poor relationships with colleagues, job security, changes in organisational structure or functioning, and lack of autonomy are slowly and silently affecting the functions of the brain. Stress, if not managed effectively only leads to more stress.
Long-term repercussions of stress
When it comes to stress, your HrQoL is at stake. When our natural alarm system or the ‘fight or flight’ response stays active for a prolonged period of time, it starts to take a toll on your physical health. The first response to stress starts above the shoulders.
The brain sends signals the nervous system to increase the heart rate, constrict some and dilate other blood vessels, and slow down the digestive process. The pituitary gland produces adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) which prompts the adrenal glands to produce cortisol or the stress hormone. Cortisol increases blood pressure and adds glucose and fat from the body into the bloodstream. The higher blood pressure, in turn, takes a toll on the heart.
Increased levels of cortisol may cause hippocampal brain damage and disturb circadian rhythms. Cortisol also increases the appetite thereby triggering binge eating. At the same time, the glucose in the bloodstream leads to obesity. The complex process of increased adrenaline and reduced gastrointestinal activity with no time for recuperation leaves you to feel both lethargic and wired at the same time. This wears out the adrenal gland and leads to adrenal fatigue.
In women, the cortisol is an important ingredient of the Progesterone, a crucial fertility hormone. With a lack of cortisol in the body, the amount of progesterone reduces and therefore leads to low libido and infertility.
Be aware of any stress inducers
When you find yourself in a stressful situation, positive energy and a change in the environment can help in immediate de-stressing. Healthy lifestyle choices, such as balanced diet, proper hydration, good sleep and exercise, strengthen the brain and help you stay calm.
Many people take to drugs, alcohol, and binge eating as mechanisms to cope with stress. If anything, these habits only cause more harm to our health. When confronted by stressful incidents at work, try to sort them out by talking to your manager or colleagues. Do not be afraid to seek support and suggestions from professionals. Prioritise and organise your work in such a way that allows you time for relaxation and family. It is very important to have a proper work-life balance. Take up an activity or a hobby such as yoga, meditation, cycling, music, dance, or art to help combat the stress in your life.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is also one of the best-known methods of learning to cope with stress. More often than not, people do not recognize that they are under stress and its effect on their health. Online assessments are available to help identify your health related quality of life and how it compares against others around you. Take a free assessment today at www.silveroakqol.org and understand the link between stress, health and quality of life. You will receive an immediate report highlighting your inner wellbeing and feedback on how you can cope with stress before it’s too late.