Stress can sometimes be advantageous when it helps to motivate us to get work done, but it can also be physically and mentally debilitating if uncontrolled. You see, there are two different kinds of stress in our lives: Good stress and bad stress. A healthy lifestyle should revolve around a balance of good and bad stress for optimal wellness.
But what happens if your life is filled with more bad stress than good stress? That’s when you may begin to suffer both mentally and physically. But first, let’s discuss the differences between good and bad stress and how each type of stress can be defined.
Good Stress vs. Bad Stress
Without at least a little bit of stress in our lives, it’s tough to get motivated enough to get work done. You see, good stress is usually short-term stress that pushes us in the right direction, helping us to accomplish our goals. It pushes us to be better, stronger people. Good stress, or eustress, is what pushes us to study for a big test, prepare for an important speech, or meet a crucial deadline.
According to Stanford Medicine Ph.D., Firdaus Dhabhar, short-term stress has the ability to enhance our immune systems and also leads to better physical and mental performance. But bad stress, on the other hand, is a negative type of stress which may have the opposite effect on our minds and bodies.
Unlike eustress, Chronic stress causes us to feel helpless, overwhelmed, or even trapped. We may feel like we’re always on edge or in fight-or-flight mode. We may feel jumpy at the sound of the slightest noise, we may become easily agitated, and our entire lifestyle and relationships may suffer because of our uncontrolled stress levels.
But, what exactly causes chronic negative stress? Generally, ongoing stress is the result of relationship complications, workplace issues, financial troubles, personal health problems, or the loss of a family member or close friend. When left untreated, stress tends to build up over time, leading to health-related issues that affect us both mentally and physically.
The Negative Effects of Chronic Stress
While eustress can help us to lead a happy, healthy lifestyle, chronic stress may impair our overall health and wellness in many ways. According to Stanford Medicine, uncontrolled stress levels may speed up the aging process, suppress our immune systems, impair the brain, and even increase our chances of getting certain types of cancers, heart disease, or depression. Additionally, stress may lead to stomach upset, a decreased sex drive, chest pain, sleep problems, muscle pain or tension, fatigue, plus a number of other uncomfortable symptoms.
You’re now probably aware that uncontrolled stress can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies. To understand the ways in which we can either promote or reduce the amount of stress in our lives, let’s consider the wise words of Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye: “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” If we react negatively to every stressful situation in our lives, we’re going to suffer because of it.
What Exactly is “Stress”?
Per the American Psychological Association, stress is our body’s way of preparing us for dealing with certain situations. Stress is our body’s natural way of protecting us from potential threats, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing on its own.
As humans, our definition of what may qualify as a threat has certainly evolved over the years, but the growing demands of today’s day and age are causing many of us to struggle with chronic stress like never before. In fact, studies show that 33 percent of people feel as if they are living with daily stress.
Additionally, 77 percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms because of stress, and 73 percent are affected psychologically. As you’re now probably aware, stress can have some detrimental effects on our physical and mental wellness.
22 Startling Ways Stress Affects our Minds and Bodies
According to the Health.com, there are 22 alarming ways that stress harms our minds and bodies:
- Stress increases fat and sugar cravings
- Hyperarousal or insomnia may occur
- Stress may cause stomach pains, diarrhea, and heartburn
- Stress may cause fat storage due to poor eating habits
- Chronic stress may damage brain tissue, making it more difficult to handle future stressors
- Memory may decline
- Acne or psoriasis may develop
- Stress may weaken the immune system, making people more susceptible to getting colds
- Premature aging may occur
- Asthma attacks or breathing problems may occur
- Stress may be linked to an increased risk of stroke
- Women may even be less attracted to men who have higher levels of stress
- Stress may cause high blood pressure
- Job-related stress may increase the risk of heart attack
- Back pain or chronic pain may develop
- Severe stress may increase a woman’s chances of going into early labor
- Stress may result in hair loss or the thinning of one’s hair
- An increase in tension headaches and migraines
- Stress may interfere with job performance
- Stress raises blood sugar
- Some people with stress may experience seizure-like symptoms
- Stress may cause sexual dysfunction
So, what are we to do if we begin to feel as if we’re being controlled by stress? We need to try to live a more worry-free, healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, there are many useful strategies available that can help to reduce symptoms of chronic stress. When we’re faced with chronic stress, it’s very important that we act to reduce the amount of stress in our lives.
And now that we know how untreated stress may lead to serious, potentially life-threatening health problems such as cancer and heart disease, we must do everything in our power to reduce the amount of stress in our lives before it’s too late.