stressed_out_brideAs I mentioned in my last post, Stress… the mortal enemy of chronic illness, I have had just a weee bit …. Read two boat loads … of stress in my life these past few months.

Now, here’s the thing… Did I cause a lot of it myself? mmm, probably.  Did I freak out and try to force things along and handle situations with reactive emotions? we’ll have to go with a definite, probably, maybe, yes on that one.  Did I not eat right, not exercise, and just focus and complain more about my fibro pains, fog and issues – which in turn added to the overall stress of the situation?  um, I’d say, I guess it’s time to pull up my big girl panties and say um, yep to that one too.

So all this stress… I allowed, caused, didn’t help, that just happened because I don’t live in a land of perfect {Insert Walgreen’s commercial credit here}… But, is it really harmful? Does stress really physically affect your body?

First let’s break it down.

What is stress?

Everybody has stress.  Stress  is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way.  The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life—giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.

But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.

Are there different kinds of stress?

There are three different kinds of stress;

 Acute Stress – Acute stress is the most common form of stress. It comes from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future.   Acute stress is thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting. A fast run down a challenging ski slope, for example, is exhilarating early in the day. That same ski run late in the day is taxing and wearing. Skiing beyond your limits can lead to falls and broken bones. By the same token, overdoing on short-term stress can lead to psychological distress, tension headaches, upset stomach and other symptoms.
Because it is short-term, acute stress doesn’t have enough time to do the extensive damage associated with long-term stress.              

The most common symptoms are:

Emotional distress — some combination of anger or irritability, anxiety and depression, the three stress emotions.
Muscular problems including tension headache, back pain, jaw pain and the muscular tensions that lead to pulled muscles and tendon and ligament problems.
Stomach, gut and bowel problems such as heartburn, acid stomach, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
Other related problems are; blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, heart palpitations, dizziness, migraine headaches, cold hands or feet, shortness of breath and chest pain.

 Acute stress can crop up in anyone’s life, and it is highly treatable and manageable.

Episodic Acute Stress –  There are those, however, who suffer acute stress frequently, whose lives are so disordered that they are studies in chaos and crisis. They’re always in a rush, but always late. If something can go wrong, it does. They take on too much, have too many irons in the fire, and can’t organize the slew of self-inflicted demands and pressures clamoring for their attention. They seem perpetually in the clutches of acute stress.

The cardiac prone, “Type A” personality described by cardiologists, Meter Friedman and Ray Rosenman, is similar to an extreme case of episodic acute stress. Type A’s have an “excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency.” In addition there is a “free-floating, but well-rationalized form of hostility, and almost always a deep-seated insecurity.” Such personality characteristics would seem to create frequent episodes of acute stress for the Type A individual. Friedman and Rosenman found Type A’s to be much more likely to develop coronary heat disease than Type B’s, who show an opposite pattern of behavior.

Another form of episodic acute stress comes from ceaseless worry. “Worry warts” see disaster around every corner and pessimistically forecast catastrophe in every situation. The world is a dangerous, unrewarding, punitive place where something awful is always about to happen. These “awfulizers” also tend to be over aroused and tense, but are more anxious and depressed than angry and hostile.

The symptoms of episodic acute stress are: persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain and heart disease. Treating episodic acute stress requires intervention on a number of levels, generally requiring professional help, which may take many months.

Sufferers can be fiercely resistant to change. Only the promise of relief from pain and discomfort of their symptoms can keep them in treatment and on track in their recovery program.

Chronic Stress – This is the grinding stress that wears people away day after day, year after year. Chronic stress destroys bodies, minds and lives.  Chronic stress comes when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation. It’s the stress of unrelenting demands and pressures for seemingly interminable periods of time. With no hope, the individual gives up searching for solutions.

So, what I’ve described so far seems mostly mental right?  Basically… you may be thinking… just keep a good attitude about myself, a good outlook on life, and don’t take on too much and I’ll be fine…

Well, Stress also has physical effects on the body as well.

How does physically affect my body?

Stress is not a disease in itself; however, many try to make it into one. Stress Related Diseases is what can follow long-term exposure to stress in your life – so only if you know you have had stress in your life for some time (usually 6 moths to 2 years).

After a period of stress, the most common health effects are

  • Weight gain or loss
  • Immune system decline
  • Sexual performance decreases
  • Depression
  • Decreased lifespan

The related diseases are the final consequence of a life filled with large amounts of stress.

The long-term stress creates a deprived state (a state of low resources) in your body, which leads to for example lower immune system, heart stress, worsening of chronic diseases and several physical, mental and behavior effects. It is the constant over-production of cortisol and adrenalin and other stress hormones that drains your body and can eventually lead to a total breakdown.

The Most Common Stress Related Diseasesstress-body-small

Among the diseases normally associated with stress is:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Infections
  • Depression
  • Worsening of chronic diseases
  • Sleep disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Abuse
  • Accident
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders
  • Ulcers and cancer