For most people, stress is simply a fact of life. Experts believe that the way we respond to daily problems determines our general stress level. Certain individuals can face serious life issues with relatively low levels of stress, while others find minor nuisances overwhelming. The causes of stress and how we react to them are different for each individual. Therefore, it is important to understand how stress affects our health and the long-term problems with which it is associated. Below are some common things that cause stress levels to rise:
Virtually everyone has interpersonal relationships with other individuals. However, arguments with spouses, significant others, children, parents and even more distant relatives can disrupt a peaceful life. Friendships can be taxing on one’s emotional health as well if unreasonable demands are made or conflicts cannot be properly resolved. For this reason, interpersonal relationships are often high on the list of things that cause stress.
Stress triggers also include money woes. Falling behind on bills, not having adequate college funds for children, counting on cash advance loans to make ends meet between paychecks, or a lack of money preventing a person’s retirement can all cause stress levels to skyrocket. Although most people have money problems at some point in life, serious financial stress can be difficult to handle.
The death of a loved one, divorce, marriage and pregnancy are all events that may be extremely stressful, depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the event. Even positive life changes can increase stress because they are associated with new expectations and responsibilities.
All jobs are associated with specific goals, quotas or work performance guidelines, and we often become stressed out if we feel we are not meeting these requirements. Worrying about future unemployment, feeling overworked, or the fear of not being able to meet a supervisor’s expectations can all lead to high-stress levels. Work-related stress can even lead to sickness over time.
Concerns About Health
Health concerns can significantly increase stress as well. Dealing with conditions that cause chronic pain, worrying about having enough medical insurance or meeting co-pays, and wondering about the future when facing an illness can all lead to habitual worry and pressure.
Stress Can Lead to Health Problems
When you are placed in stressful circumstances such as those outlined above, a physical response is launched in your body. This involves your nervous system springing into action and producing hormones that were designed to help you fight off an impending threat or flee from danger. This is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response, and it causes elevated blood pressure and heartbeat, muscle tension and perspiration. Your body quickly recovers from this type of stress, as it is temporary or “acute.”
However, if stress becomes chronic, the latter of which means it remains activated over an extended period of time, it can lead to health issues. This is because the continuous rush of stress hormones like cortisol can place a tremendous amount of wear and tear on your body. It can make you more susceptible to illness and cause premature aging. In some cases, it can also lead to serious health problems. Short-term stress is associated with irritability, difficulty concentrating, headaches and fatigue, but these are usually transient in nature. However, long-term stress can lead to more serious conditions, including the following:
• Fertility problems
• Weight loss
• Weight gain
• Skin disorders, such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Stomach ulcers
• Heart disease
• Hardening of the arteries
• Abnormal heartbeat
• High blood pressure
• Changes in sex drive
Fortunately, understanding the causes of stress and how stress affects our health can go a long way toward preventing the aforementioned problems. If you are under a significant amount of pressure or are worrying about any of the issues mentioned above, consider speaking to your primary health care practitioner about enrolling in a recommended stress management program.