A “stress episode” can feel very much like a heart attack. This is what we know about stress and the body: It’s not so much the amount of stress, but the amount of time you are in a state of stress. For a perfect example of this, try holding a glass of water out at arm’s length without spilling it. How much does it weigh? Probably a pound or two. No biggie. But after 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour — how much does it weigh now? It weighs the same, but it sure feels heavier! “Just” stress is misleading.
1. Stress-related illnesses are really feedback from life.
If you are having health issues or even health scares, your body is trying to tell you something. You should listen to your body. If your body is telling you it is stressed, it is time for a health and life makeover. Stress reduction is not something you do over a weekend; it must be done every day. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you will keep getting what you’re getting.
2. Chronic stress can both shorten the length and diminish the quality of your life.
Chronic stress from career, family obligations — even good things like ministry or volunteer work can eventually wreak havoc on your overall health. If you drove your car at 100 mph. every single day all day long, it would wear out a lot faster than it already does. “Stress is not a state of mind … it’s measurable and dangerous, and humans can’t seem to find their off-switch.” These words from renowned author and award-winning neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky in the documentary Stress: Portrait of a Killer.
The stress response is a normal and necessary human function, but turning it on repeatedly all day long every day causes your body to marinate in corrosive hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Psychology Today Magazine recently called cortisol Public Health Enemy #1.
The most common health conditions caused or worsened by stress are: hypertension, anxiety, heart disease, sexual dysfunction, infertility, depression, frequent colds, insomnia, chronic fatigue, memory loss, trouble concentrating, and digestive issues (reflux, heartburn, gas, constipation, diarrhea, ulcers, GERD, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.)
3. Stress affects your brain.
The cells in the Hippocampus portion of the brain are markedly smaller in lab rats who were put under stress. The Hippocampus is the seat of learning and memory. Memory loss is a common complaint that indicates the body is in a state of stress. Stress can trigger the degenerative process in your brain that eventually leads to Alzheimer’s. Elevated cortisol levels can trigger mental illness — especially in adolescents.
4. Chronic stress can make you fat.
Stress alters the way your body deposits fat as it increases adrenaline and cortisol. Increased cortisol levels cause your body to accumulate belly fat. Fat around the middle is the most dangerous kind of fat because it increases your risk of heart disease and heart attack.