Did you know?
It has been estimated that 75 - 95% of all doctors’ visits are due to stress- related ailments and disorders. Stress has been linked to a diverse range of health problems such as cancer, diabetes, immune system breakdown, alcohol and substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disease, lung ailments, cirrhosis, anxiety, depression, insomnia and suicide to name but a few.
The most recently published statistics from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive provide us with a very worrying picture of the stress situation in the UK, a situation that experts believe is likely to get steadily worse rather than better. Estimates from the Labour Force Survey indicate that self-reported, work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for an estimated 10.4 million lost working days in Britain in 2011/12. In fact, stress is the second most commonly reported reason for work-related ill health, following closely behind musculo-skeletal problems.
What do we really mean when we talk about stress?
Stress is one of the most commonly used words in relation to ill health and yet few people really understand just how far reaching the effects of stress can be. Stress can be physical, mental or emotional and can be short-term or ongoing. Stress is everywhere, and as humans we seem to have a very turbulent relationship with our stress response; it is essential for life (we absolutely couldn’t live without it), and yet many of us find we can’t cope with it either!
Are You Overstressed?
Below are just some of the many stressful events that can lead you to become overstressed. Have you experienced any of these events in the last twelve months? If so, then be aware that you may be feeling the impact of stress.
• Death of spouse or close family member
• Work more than 40 hours per week
• Financial problems
• Serious personal injury or illness
• Pregnancy/new child
• Sleep less than 8 hours per night
• Loss of job
• Job change
• Death of a close friend
• Relationship difficulties
• Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
• Change in responsibilities at work
• Issues with work colleagues or boss
If you think you may be suffering from stress, then ask your practitioner about the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS questionnaire) to determine your level of stress.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life
Unfortunately, the negative effects of stress on your health can be far reaching. Stress can challenge your ability to maintain healthy gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, reproductive, and immune system health. It can make it difficult for you to enjoy healthy emotional balance, concentration, and restful sleep. And it can make you more susceptible to illness. This is because stress causes changes in the body’s chemistry, altering the balance of hormones in ways that can impact your entire body.
What happens when we are stressed?
The body’s response to immediate threat is commonly termed the ‘fight or flight’ response and is managed by hormones secreted by the adrenal glands. Consider the physical resources you might need if you were being chased by a predator and this helps to explain exactly what happens as part of the stress response:
• Increased heart rate & blood pressure
• Increased breathing rate
• Pupils dilate
• Increased blood sugar for instant energy
• Energy is diverted away from non-essential activities such as digestion, growth and reproduction, and instead channelled into the muscles, lungs and heart, etc., ready to take action.
Ancient ancestors thrived on stress
This stress response has served us well for thousands of years and is something our ancient ancestors would have thrived on, when threats were more physical and immediate. Nowadays, the stress response is more likely to be a reaction to missed work deadlines, relationship worries and financial pressures; very different stresses to those we faced thousands of years ago.
Adrenal overload and burnout
The end result is that whilst the adrenal glands can deal with the increased demands over the short term, if the stress is more long-term and chronic, over time this puts an incredible strain on the systems in the body, particularly the adrenal glands, and can affect sleep patterns, threaten emotional stability, and ultimately lead to what is commonly termed ‘burnout’.
The 3 Stages of Stress
When the body is under chronic stress, it typically goes through three clear phases, characterised by three distinct sets of symptoms, as demonstrated by the diagram below.
Don’t let stress get the better of you!
You may think that the best way to deal with stress is to avoid stressful situations in the first place. Whilst, in some cases this may be possible and indeed essential, in many other cases you simply cannot avoid stress. Sometimes life events are out of your control and in these cases, it is important that you are armed with the very best defence to help support a healthy stress response. Remember, it is not always the stressor that is the problem, often it is our imbalanced response that creates the problem.
So what can you do?
Fortunately, there is an alternative to simply avoiding stressful situations. Ultimately, how you manage the stress in your life can determine the impact it will have on you. There are several effective methods for dealing with stress:
• Eating a balanced diet and getting adequate rest to help your body repair and regenerate itself.
• Exercise, meditation and yoga are popular stress management tools that might help you break out of a stress-induced downward spiral.
• Taking specialised nutrient and herbal formulas that help your body adapt to various stressful challenges by promoting a healthy stress response.
Clinically Effective Formulas
Natural substances in foods, plants and herbs have been shown to act as natural, safe inhibitors of stress hormones, whilst others may act as energy boosters to help combat feelings of exhaustion. Choosing the right formula for you couldn’t be simpler once you’ve identified which of the three presentations of stress applies to you; and each formula will help to address the underlying imbalance whilst providing lasting relief.