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  • Writer's pictureAlex Ward

Stress can kill you!

We all get stressed. It's something so common we all just accept it as part of life. Pressure at work is one of the more prevalent types of stress I hear about as a confidence coach, but stress can rear its ugly head in many areas of life. I've seen stress connected to relationships, financials, moving home, having children, new jobs or promotions, and socialising. These are just a few from the top of my head. Essentially stress is around us all the time and it's hard to avoid.

But did you know that stress can kill you?

We all know that stress isn't great and feels terrible. We get overwhelmed, uncertain and anxious. But it's not just a mental toll that stress can cause, it's a physical one too.

At the beginning of the twentieth century a physiologist by the name of Walter B. Cannon, laid the groundwork for the modern meaning of "stress". He was the first to describe the "fight or flight response" as a series of biochemical changes that prepare you to deal with a threat or danger.

When we were more primitive we needed quick bursts of energy to either fight or flee when danger approached. It's this fight or flight response that has allowed the human race to survive this long.

The fight or flight response can serve you well at times, if you were driving a car and someone swerved in front of you, it allows you to react quickly and survive.

The world we live in now has social customs that prevent the need to fight or flee, so this 'emergency' stress response is very rarely useful to us.

Hans Selye was the first major researcher on stress and was able to trace what happens in the body during the fight or flight response. He found that any problem, imagined or real, can cause the cerebral cortex (the thinking part of the brain) to send an alarm to the hypothalamus (this is the switch for the stress response, located in the midbrain). The hypothalamus then stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to make a series of changes in the body. There is an increase in all the following

  • Heart rate

  • Breathing rate

  • Muscle tension

  • Metabolism

  • Blood pressure

The hands and feet also become cold as blood is redirected to the digestive system and larger muscle groups. Some people will experience butterflies in their stomachs. Pupils can dilate to sharpen vision and hearing can become more acute.

Unfortunately, something else can happen during fight or flight which has more negative and long-term effects.

The adrenal glands secrete corticoids which inhibit digestion, reproduction, growth, tissue repair and the responses of the immune and inflammatory systems. In other words, some very important functions that keep the body healthy begin to shut down.

Triggering your stress response means that you are regularly inhibiting your immune and inflammatory systems, this makes you more susceptible to colds and flu and can exacerbate specific diseases such as cancer. In addition, a prolonged stress response can worsen conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain and diabetes. There is also evidence that shows that a state of chronic stress will also contribute to depression and anxiety.

Hopefully, that information is enough for you to start giving more attention to stress and the reduction of it.

Studies have shown us that by having dedicated daily relaxation you can lower your overall stress levels. This will help with your mental and physical health.

Just 10-20 minutes a day can be enough to restore your immune and inflammatory systems back to their regular states, which in turn raises your immunity to illness.

When I say 10-20 minutes of relaxation, unfortunately, this doesn't include watching Netflix or having a large glass of wine. I'm talking about dedicated relaxation time! Some ways you may want to do this:

  • Meditation

  • Yoga

  • Hypnotherapy

  • Relaxation audios

I offer a free relaxation audio on my website which I've linked here. It's 10 mins long and will ensure that you get your ten minutes of relaxation every day if you listen to it.

If you are interested in other ways to manage stress or anxiety, you can book a session with me using this link.


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