We all have stress in our lives to some degree: work stress, relationship stress, financial stress, educational stress. Stress can come from big life events such as divorce, death, moving, illness, and even getting married. Not all stress is external. Other stress can come from things such as fear, anxiety, expectations (met or unmet), and change.
Our bodies have been programmed to deal with stress since early man walked on the earth. Unfortunately, how we respond to stress hasn’t changed in all that time, and our body cannot differentiate between an impending dinosaur attack and an overdue car payment.
In either case, everything from your respiratory system to your adrenal glands to your nervous system are affected when you are under stress. The long term effects of stress on your body can lead to everything from ulcers, anxiety, hypertension, and even stroke.
Richard S. Lazarus described stress as “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize”. Or, in simple terms, we feel like things are a hot mess and we can’t get them under control. Medical professionals and Psychiatrists use the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale to measure how likely stress is to cause a person to become sick. The higher your score, the more likely you are to become ill due to stress.
I’ve taken this test 3 times in the last 2 years. The first two times were in 2014. Once was in June for a psychology class (I scored a 345), and once was in September for a health/science class (I scored a 381). I took the test again today, and scored a 405. What this tells me, other than I’m under a lot of stress which I already was aware of, is that I’ve been suffering from long-term stress.
Chronic stress causes your fight-or-flight system to always be turned “on”. This in turn can effect your adrenal glands, your liver, and cause a reduction in your immune system. It can also make your body more resistant to adrenaline, which your body keeps on producing when you are stressed. It’s a no-win situation
The American Institute for Stress lists 50 symptoms of stress, everything from headaches, dry mouth, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, nervous habits, ringing ears, heartburn, and anxiety to excessive gambling and social withdrawal.
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