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Stress and Our Body
Recently, stress has been linked to numerous health problems and conditions. As a matter of fact, the American Institute of Stress cites the following Statistics, 43% of all adults suffer from the adverse effects of stress and 80% of all primary care physician visits are due to stress related complaints or disorders. But what causes stress? In order to understand what causes stress, it is necessary to know what stress is. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Stress is a normal reaction the body has when changes occur so it can respond to these changes physically, mentally, or emotionally.” Stress initially was meant to be positive because it activates the fight or flight reflexes in emergency situations. However, when activation is prolonged, stress has a negative impact and causes distress which disturbs the body’s balance and equilibrium. In society today, stress is a growing problem and can be initiated from three major areas: the workplace, in the home and by the environment.
Workplace or occupational stress has been documented in a few studies as the number one cause of stress in society today. But what is it about people’s jobs that have them all stressed out? Today’s business motto in general is “Do more with less” and this very concept is the exact reason people are stressed out at work. Employees feel overwhelmed and under-valued at work daily. How many times does someone get congratulated for getting a job done verses being reprimanded if the expectation isn’t met? In addition, the stress of deadlines, longer work days, lack of support, dealing with difficult people and negative environments are also attributing factors keeping employees in a constant state of stress. And finally, the falling rate of job security and employee expendability leave employees wondering each day if tomorrow is the day, they will lose their job. Loyalty to an employer or company means nothing in today’s business world, it’s more of a dog eat dog life in business. To make matters worse, workplace stressors don’t seem to be making an exit any time soon and the “Do more with less” attitude increasing across the nation is only going to cause occupational stress to rise.
Household stress comes in at a close second. Personal issues in the home contribute to increased and prolonged periods of stress. One of the most significant is a lifestyle change. For instance, a death or divorce can change the family dynamic and this type of change can have lasting effects for months and even years for some family members. Another common stressor is financial stability. With economic instability and the mentality that everyone in the workplace is expendable, working members of the family are concerned more about the future than ever before. Consequently, a family that is barely getting by always worries if they will have enough money to make it until the next payday. Think about this, how would it feel to wonder where the next meal is coming from or whether a home will exist in a month or two? Lastly, the family dynamic that has changed the most in last 20 years is grandparents taking on the role of parents for a second time. More grandparents are raising their grandchildren than ever before. Instead of being grandparents they have become the caretaker and providers to these children at an age when they should be relaxing, and their incomes are fixed. Just imagine how it would feel to raise kids instead of enjoying the last years of life! Household stressors can affect every member of the family, including the children. The impact of an unstable home, a lifestyle change, or traumatic event can initiate long periods of stress for an entire family.
And finally, there is environmental stress. This type of stress is the only type of stress that doesn’t come from an emotional trigger like the other two. However, it is one of the most important and overlooked types of stressor. Environmental stress can manifest itself in noise, come from pollutants or toxins, occur in the presence of war, develop in an unsafe environment or after a catastrophic event. Noise, pollutants and toxins are the most common types of stress experienced on a regular basis. Today, we are constantly exposed to one or more of these daily. Think about these next few questions. In the morning does an alarm goes off? Or how many cleaning products have toxic chemicals in them? And would either trigger a stress response? The answer is yes, they do, and used regularly would create a prolonged cycle of activation. Unfortunately, most people wouldn’t even know that something had happened. For instance, the noise of the alarm, startles someone awake instead of allowing the body to finish its natural sleep-wake cycle. Furthermore, breathing in a chemical from cleaning products causes the body to start attacking the foreign fume ingested into the body. These responses are emergency responses that trigger a type of response to help the body adjust to the situation. Repeatedly disrupting this process causes stress, even when it may not be noticed. Another situation is a catastrophic event, such as a hurricane, an unsafe neighborhood or even events like a mass shooting. This type of stress can initiate a prolonged stress response in an entire community. Whole communities under this type of stress can last for years, and imagine what possible issues could trigger a stress response in any of these situations? This type of stress for a prolonged period will not only initiate distress but eventually could break down the entire community. Stress triggers from the environment may be seen in large or catastrophic events like a hurricane but other situations, like toxins, may go completely unnoticed and can have the most profound impact daily.
What once was a helpful tool in times of emergency has now become a burden to so many people in society. Today’s stressors are very different from those in the past and for many leads down a more negative path. This distress can cause the stress response to be activated for long periods of time, resulting in negative side effects. Stress is caused by many of the obstacles we face daily, even some that we may not be aware of. Stress continues to be a growing problem and manifests in three major forms; the workplace, the household and the environment.
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Coming soon, The effects and reducing Stress….. Part Two