What Are The Harmful Effects Of Continual Stress?
The Everyday Plague
Our planet has an incurable rampant plague. In today’s technological society our whole population is infected. That plague is stress. When stress isn’t alleviated it can lead to an imbalance within the body and cause internal damage. Ironically, most modern people in a developed country do not experience perilous stress, the kind that provokes an all out fight-or-flight response. We aren’t being chased by dinosaurs, threatened by mutants, or attacked by zombies.
3 Forms of Stress Damage
The plague is silent and hidden in the form of low-level harmful stress. The natural purpose of the body’s stress response is to trigger heightened alertness and energy for a short period, a matter of minutes or at most an hour, when fighting or fleeing is a matter of survival. When stress becomes harmful, a “normal” way of life that people believe they have adapted to, stress hormones become a drip-drip in the background of the physiology, and over time, three forms of damage begin to appear:
- Psychological and neural damage. This begins with minor things like feeling mentally tired and under pressure from deadlines at work. When people say they are stressed out, they generally mean that they’ve run out of energy, which can mask mental states like being depressed, anxious, or even panicky.
- Behavioral damage. Negative changes in behavior are likely to manifest in two major areas: work and relationships. Stressful jobs can make you respond with all kinds of behaviors, from office gossip to going out for a drink after work. As stress mounts, the drinking can get heavier, the need for distraction more severe. Inevitably, you may take your feelings home after work, where friction easily follows.
- Physical damage. When the body can’t completely adapt to stress, bad effects follow without being predictable. Most people will suffer from physical fatigue. Stomachaches, bad digestion, and headaches are likely—so is reduced immune response, leading to more colds and worsened allergies. After that, the problems will tend to be associated with inflammation, whose effects can travel anywhere. One person may experience acne, another irritable bowel syndrome, yet another a heart attack or stroke. At this stage, the damage caused by stress has led to serious internal malfunction.
Due to the stress faced daily we should possess conscious coping skills. For example, you’re on your way to an appointment, work, family gathering, whatever, and you get stuck in traffic. Thirty minutes goes by and still no movement. There’s no alternative except to stay there until traffic moves again. All the other stuck drivers look passive as they sit and wait, but on the inside many people, including yourself, may react with the following self-defeating responses:
- Worry is self-induced anxiety. It solves nothing and blocks the possibility of dealing with things more positively.
- Complaining increases tension and anger. As a display of hostility, it encourages other people to act hostile in return.
- Pessimism induces the illusion that a situation is hopeless and fosters the belief that expecting a bad outcome is always realistic, when in fact it isn’t.
Can you relate to these behaviors and attitudes? If yes, then you have become the stressor yourself by believing that you have adapted to stress. The external event of being in a traffic jam has caused your body to experience an internal interpretation before it triggers the stress response.
Being in a traffic jam belongs in the realm of everyday harmful stresses. The beauty is that you always have a choice on how to respond. Worry, complaining, and pessimism are unconscious responses. People who are stuck in them create a victimhood of old reactions that become fixed in place because the person doesn’t reframe them.
Some people handle being in a traffic jam better than others. Here’s a “traffic jam solution” for low-level everyday stress.
The Harmful Stress “Traffic Jam” Solution.
- Detach yourself from the stressor. Divert your attention: Listen to music that you enjoy or some podcasts, plan out the rest of the day, read a book or find a place to be alone.
- Become centered. Take a moment to indulge in deep and slow breathing as it helps you relax your mind as well as regulate your breathing. Inhale, exhale and repeat.
- Seek positive outlets. Change the perception towards stress: The way we respond to stress plays a major role in how it affects us. Keeping a positive spirit and indulging in positive self talk can greatly influence the way you respond to stress.
- Beat the anxious thoughts: If you worry about being late for work or a meeting, approach it with a positive attitude and focus on the present moment onto what is happening around you.
- Rely on emotional support. One way to do this is by calling a friend or family member on the phone. Take time to catch up and socialize. Another way is to hire a mentor to assist you.
Instead of the negativity of worry, complaining, and pessimism, these things are all positive modifications. Stress lies under the attitude of “I have to put up with it.” Claim instead the statement “I choose to experience this” or “I get to do this.” Falling back on passive acceptance isn’t the right answer but these adjustments bring awareness into the situation.
When you become skillful at this turnaround, harmful stress is alleviated and you shorten a process that would have affected your body and mind negatively.
The “Traffic Jam Solutions” are powerful yet simple techniques to add to your toolbox of life. Try one or all. Would love to know how you enjoyed them. Be sure to comment below.
If you’d like to learn more about various stress reducing techniques and how to effortlessly incorporate them into your life, schedule a free clarity call and let’s talk about how I can support you on the ascension of your 1StellarLife!