Can Stress Kill You?
Worry, anxiety, and tension are all words that spring to mind when one thinks about stress. This condition is a cocktail of symptoms, which left unaddressed, can start to affect your physical health.
What Is Stress?
Stress can be interpreted in numerous ways and affects different people in several different ways. Since stress doesn’t have a singular set of symptoms, it makes it difficult to define or measure.
Hans Selye, a Hungarian-Canadian endocrinologist, coined the term “stress” in 1936. He later summed up stress as saying, “Everyone knows what stress is, but nobody really knows.”
If we boil it down, stress is a reaction from the body that occurs as a result of a change. These reactions can be physical, mental, or emotional.
Stress can help us avoid danger, keep us motivated, and enhance our alertness. Stress itself is not an illness, but it can contribute to several health issues.
Does Positive Stress Exist?
There is a misconception that stress only presents itself in light of negative changes. In fact, stress can be prompted by positive events as well.
Under this positive lens, stress is referred to as Eustress; the stress is a motivator rather than a blockade. Life changes like a new job, keeping a deadline, moving, a new baby, or planning a wedding, can prompt overwhelming feelings of stress.
Symptoms of Stress
Stressors are different for each one of us. We can reinforce our own stress due to inaccurate perceptions, but these perceptions can be corrected.
Leaning on the idea that stress is difficult to define, symptoms of stress can range. The fight or flight response built into all of us takes over during moments of stress that initialize through various physiological changes.
There are some warning signs which include:
- A change of appetite
- Excessive sweat
- Muscle tension
- Changes in weight
Stress can cause reactions in the form of:
- Chest pain
- Increased blood pressure
- Stomach ache
- A headache
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep issues
- Heart palpitations
Emotional problems can also result from stress, and symptoms can include depression, panic attacks, or anxiety.
Extreme Cases of Stress
Prolonged periods of stress wreak havoc on your physical and mental body. Distress occurs when you go without a break from stress, which prompts this negative reaction.
Stress has been attributed to heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, and cirrhosis of the liver. While stress itself does not kill you, it can contribute to diseases which can—and it doesn’t matter if it’s major or minor stress.
By wearing down the physical body due to a constant state of upheaval, the body’s immune systems can become weaker or hold you emotionally captive.
Cortisol is what is referred to as the stress hormone, and increased levels of this hormone affect learning, memory, immune function, bone density, increase blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.
Conditions include diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and depression.
Should You Consult a Physician about Stress?
Prolonged stress should be address by your doctor. Doctors can diagnose any physical issues that are a result of persistent stress and will be able to help you cope with the resources and knowledge they have available.
If you have chest pains, heart issues, abnormal headaches, or other concerning physical symptoms, contact a medical professional immediately.
Emotional stress that results in thoughts of self-harm or harm to others should also be addressed immediately. Do not dismiss the emotional and mental effects of stress; seeking help is the best thing you can do for yourself.
How to Cope With Stress
Stress becomes worrisome when we allow stress-related tension to grow. If you acknowledge stress in your life, don’t ignore it and let it manifest. It’s important to break up stressful periods with mindful relaxation.
This relief can be found in several ways.
- Take care of your body: staying active and eating healthy will give you the advantage to fight off symptoms of stress.
- Engage in relaxing techniques which include yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, or tai-chi.
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, if your mind and body are both tired, they won’t put up much of a fight when stress comes into your life.
- Make self-care a priority, and recognize what you need socially, as well as make time for yourself.
- Put on your positive pants; be aware of your mindset and try to have a good attitude. Reframing your stresses in a positive light can help ease your mental burden.
How Not to Cope With Stress
“Blowing off steam” is a necessary means to relieve stress, but there are also some negative behaviors that will only make the situation worse.
Engaging in excessive food and alcohol consumption, as well as activities such as drug use, smoking, gambling, and shopping are not cures for stress.
The perceived relief generated by these actions does not reduce stress levels. The body remains in a fight or flight state, and the behavior only leads to increased problems which, in turn, generate more stress.
Stress will flow in and out of your life like the tide, but the tide is never constant. If you are feeling stressed out, don’t ignore the symptoms. Breathe. Take care of yourself. Invite moments of relaxation into your life… your health depends on it.