There is being stressed today, and there is being stressed every day. The latter is Chronic Stress, and chronic stress is a killer. It not only kills our ability to live our lives fully, it will also kill us physically.
If we find ourselves chronically stressed, it means we are constantly in fight or flight mode: our adrenaline is increased and other hormones decreased; this begins to impact motor functions, mental functioning, and will eventually lead to a decrease in our immune system functioning.
“Stress is the most common cause of ill health in our society, probably underlying as many as 70% of all visits to family doctors” (www.mentalhealth.com). According to a recent study, it costs the US an estimated $42 Billion a year in stress-based issues, such as work absenteeism, physical illness, and mental illness. This kind of stress can lead to personal isolation, lost work, and relationship break-ups.
Chronic stress impacts us emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. The tragedy is that people can find their way out of this, but often don’t.
Stress occurs naturally as a response to something we perceive as threatening. It readies our body to respond optimally to the threatening situation, and once the threat is gone, our functioning will go back to normal. Chronic stress occurs when we find ourselves responding to threats every day, and pour body never really has a chance to go back to normal. This can be in response to both physical and emotional threats – our body will respond to either kind of threat in exactly the same way. Some examples: a serious car crash, PTSD from serving in Afghanistan, caring for a severely disabled person, being in high-stress work environment, family break-ups.
Here are some symptoms of chronic stress:
- Isolation, not wanting to leave home
- Paralysis when action is needed
- Preoccupation and lack of attention, leading to avoidable accidents
- Constant worry
- Panic and fear of things not working, or of the unknown
- Diminished productivity
- Headaches, muscle tension, rapid heart rate
- Digestive issues
- Serious sleep issues
There are things you can do if you are suffering in this way. All of these involve finding better ways of taking care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. There are many self-help aids available in bookstores and online. Try them. If you find you need some guidance, help yourself by building a health care team – a doctor or naturopath and a psychotherapist – who can help you regain your balance and get back your health.
Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit http://www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.