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Many people are beginning to focus on changing unhealthy habits in order to achieve better lives. Diets are being modified and time is being made for exercise, but countless individuals are forgetting one key aspect of their life, their mental health. Americans are being overburdened with excessive workloads. The tremendous amount people have on their plates coupled with the pressure to succeed causes an unhealthy amount of stress in the general population. While many write their stress off as normal, a lot of people’s stress may be of an unhealthy nature that may lead to great physical and mental difficulties down the road. America must become familiar with this threat and take measures to reduce it before we ‘work ourselves to death’.
What is Stress? The first definition for stress was created in 1936 by Hans Selye. He stated that stress is”the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change" (Institute of Stress). Selye’s definition allows others to understand that stress is not merely a reaction to something bad, but merely a reaction to a change in situation. This definition lacks an explanation to what kind of response the body has. Stress is not only a change in a body response but more specifically a "physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension" (Institute of Stress). In order for stress to form, whether it is from a good or bad situation, there must be a stressor causing tension to appear.
What are some signs I am too stressed out? Stress has long been considered a bad thing by most people. This is probably due to the undesirable side-effects that occur when in a stressful situation. The truth is that stress can be a motivating factor until it reaches a particular threshold. Increased stress has been shown to increase productivity up to a certain point(Institute of Stress). Past this point, stress decreases productivity drastically, by triggering exhaustion and even sickness (Institute of Stress). It is because so many people’s stress has surpassed this threshold that nearly 1 million workers are absent each day. This number tripled from 1996 to 2000 (Institute of Stress).
In order for people to better understand whether or not they have too much stress in their lives, they must be able to identify the signs and symptoms of unhealthy stress levels. Some symptoms of stress include (Institute of Stress): • reoccurring headaches • stuttering • grinding teeth • tremors/shaking • frequent sweating • insomnia • nightmares • muscle pains • depression • digestive difficulties • panic attacks • excess anxiety • decreased appetite • chest pains • reduced work efficiency
What are the physical effects of stress? Unhealthy amounts of stress can have detrimental long term effects on the human body. Stress initiates a release of cortisol, norepinephrine, and serotonin (Stress and Cardiovascular disease & Stress on the Brain). Normal stress levels allow the body to recuperate following a stressful situation and to re-balance hormone levels. On the other hand, chronic stress causes an imbalance of these hormones, with excess in some areas of the body and deficiencies in others (Stress and Cardiovascular disease). For example, chronic stress causes a surplus of cortisol in the brain. This can lead to damage of neurons and loss of short term memory. In addition, the sympathetic activity which stress instigates, leads to a suppression of the immune system which may worsen allergies and lead to greater susceptibility to illnesses (Stress and Cardiovascular disease).
Another major concern chronic stress creates within the medical community is its effects on a persons’ heart health. Stress not only increases a persons' chances of participating in unhealthy activities (eating unhealthily, not exercising due to work load, drinking alcohol, and smoking), it also trigger physiological responses which predispose a person to heart disease. Chronic stress increases both blood pressure and risk of atherosclerosis (Stress and Cardiovascular disease). Both factors most inevitably lead to heart disease. In addition to heart disease, stress may lead to obesity and diabetes which are both linked to cardiovascular disease in several ways.
Other illnesses which stress has been shown to increase the chances of include migraines, ulcers, asthma, infertility, and irritable bowel syndrome. Nearly “75-90% of all doctors visits are due to stress-related ailments” (Stress and Cardiovascular disease). On top of the physical symptoms associated with stress, mental illnesses, such as depression, also forms as side effects. When the mind cannot keep up with the body, there will inevitably be psychological symptoms of distress. It is obvious that stress is a detrimental aspect in today’s world. With all of the physical and psychological ailments created by stress, it may be in the best interest of the citizens of America to reduce workload in order to achieve increased the quality of life and more productive businesses.
References The American Institute of Stress. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2008, from American
Institute of Stress Web site: http://www.stress.org/
Stress on the Brain. (2004). The Human Brain. Retrieved January 20, 2008, from The
Frankilin Institute Resources for Science & Learning Web site: http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/stress.html
Stress and Cardiovascular disease. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2008, from Maharishi
college of Vedic Medicine Web site: http://www.tm.cme.edu/01.html