That extra rush of adrenalin, released during acute stress gives us a needed burst of speed when we flee from danger or an extra surge of power when we decide to stand and fight. However, when we fail to release stress by coping with life’s situations, it builds up until we either explode or collapse.
The consequences of stress can cause specific disorders in both mind and body. In addition to raising levels of the stress hormones, adrenaline and corticosterone (lately much talked about as cortisol), a build up of stress can cause headaches, digestive problems, eating disorders, insomnia, fatigue, and lower our resistance to other illnesses like colds and flu.
When we are deluged by a sequence of stressful situations, our bodies don’t have time to adjust and our minds don’t have to make the decisions necessary to deal with stress in a healthy manner. This is episodic stress. Over time, unrelieved stress, like episodic stress, can result in increased heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure, which in turn put undue stress on bodily organs such as the heart and lungs. Eventually our body gives up the fight; unable to flee from our problems we develop more significant problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and other illnesses.
Emotionally, stress can near literally burn us out. Long-term stress becomes chronic stress. Stress becomes inconspicuous, hiding behind feelings of hopelessness, constant anxiety, depression, and in severe cases serious mental aberrations such as paranoia and delusions. Of course, the worst-case consequence of stress is suicide.
Just as each individual differs from the next in his or her responses, there is no set limit as to how much stress each of us can endure. Each of us seems to be endowed with our own stress “thermometer”. When the mercury rises or plummets, in order to stay healthy we need to have a planned strategy to manage stress. Knowing and using a few stress management tips can make all the difference in the consequences of stress.
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