Stress is toxic to our bodies. So toxic, in fact, that it poisons your body and mind to the point where you can be totally incapacitated. Worst of all, the effects of stress seem to creep up on you and leave you feeling worn out, depressed, anxious and overweight. In essence, stress can kill you softly. It has been estimated that 60–80 per cent of all the reasons that people see a GP are due to stress-related conditions. Such conditions include fatigue, headaches, inability to lose weight, mental-health issues, insomnia, digestive issues, muscle tension, difficulties conceiving, recurrent infections, and even high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.
These health effects can take some time to recover from depending on how long you have been stressed and the type of stress you have been experiencing.
To illustrate how debilitating stress can be to your health I recall a patient of mine who came to see me due to unrelenting fatigue despite getting a good night’s sleep. She was a busy working mum with three children. She ran her own business and tried to keep fit by running three times per week. Despite all the exercise she found she was unable to lose any weight but, in fact, was gaining weight steadily. She also found that her moods had changed – she was becoming more pessimistic and irritable. She often tossed and turned at night time and would wake up predictability in the night between 1–3 a.m. Despite eating fairly healthily most of the time her biggest weakness was caffeine and chocolate. She would drink on average 3–4 cups of coffee per day to stay awake
and eat chocolate every night due to her sugar cravings. When she looked in the mirror she reported to me that she no longer recognised who she was. To add insult to injury people often told her she looked tired. So she came to see me in a desperate state of not knowing what was wrong. We discovered that her health was suffering under the effects of chronic stress, as explained below.
It is important to realise that not all stress is bad. Some stress is actually good for you and helps to keep life interesting. Good stress is also called eu-stress. We need just the right amount of stress to keep us motivated and challenged. Too little stress and we become apathetic and bored. But too much stress and that is where our health starts to suffer the consequences. The worse two types of stress are repeated stress and chronic stress. So what exactly are these and how do you avoid them from becoming toxic in your life?
Repeated Stress & How You Can Reduce Its Effects
Repeated stress affects you on a frequent and recurrent basis. Common examples of things that can make you stressed include:
- Paying Bills
- Sleep disturbance
This type of stress can be overcome by practising stress-reduction techniques such as taking ten deep breaths, meditation, mindfulness, and regular, relaxing exercise such as yoga and/or Pilates. These types of activities activate our parasympathetic nervous system – which is literally our ‘de-stress’ nervous system. Practice makes perfect when it comes to winding down the stress response so try incorporating these stress-reducing activities daily.
But by far the worse type of stress is chronic stress.
Health TIP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
To halt the stress response stop and take ten slow, deep breaths. Repeat this several times a day and before sleep at night.
Holistic Medical Doctor, Author ‘Healthy Habits, 52 Ways to Better Health‘