As far as I am concerned, stress is the number one silent killer! Research has shown that chronic prolonged stress can change the shape of cells and deteriorate organs because our biology is not designed to be in a constant fight-or-flight mode.
In this day and age, our fight or flight response is one of a predominantly psychological basis; traffic jams, frustrations
over finances, daily responsibilities, etc. There is no real danger, not in a sense that would be proportionate to our
consistently heightened state of stress. This can have devastating effects on the body, and
makes our ability to de-stress absolutely critical to our health and overall wellbeing.
Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger -- whether it's real or imagined -- the body's defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the fight-or-flight reaction, or the stress response.
The stress response is the body's way of protecting you. In emergency situations, stress can save your life -- giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.
The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you're attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you'd rather be watching TV.
But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.
The body doesn't distinguish between physical and psychological threats. When you're stressed over a busy schedule, an argument with a friend, a traffic jam, or a mountain of bills, your body reacts just as strongly as if you were facing a life-or-death situation. If you have a lot of responsibilities and worries, your emergency stress response may be on most of the time. The more your body's stress system is activated, the harder it is to shut off.
Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process.
Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
• Pain of any kind
• Heart disease
• Digestive problems
• Sleep problems
• Autoimmune diseases
• Skin conditions, such as eczema
Learn how your mental health -- and most notably, stress -- affects your physical health by visiting the American Psychological Association's Mind/Body Health: Interactive tool.
Here are some of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress. The more signs and symptoms you notice in yourself, the closer you may be to stress overload.
• Memory problems
• Inability to concentrate
• Poor judgment
• Seeing only the negative
• Anxious or racing thoughts
• Constant worrying
• Aches and pains
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Nausea, dizziness
• Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
• Loss of sex drive
• Frequent colds
• Irritability or short temper
• Agitation, inability to relax
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Sense of loneliness and isolation
• Depression or general unhappiness
• Eating more or less
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Isolating yourself from others
• Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
• Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
• Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
For a more comprehensive list of symptoms, visit this article at The American Institute of Stress.