Constant Stress: Overload Until the Body Goes On Strike

Nowadays stress is unavoidable. In a world that is turning faster and faster, stress is often a permanent condition. This has some serious health consequences.

Stress is something very personal. Everyone reacts differently to it. Stress symptoms can therefore be divided into four categories: physical symptoms (tremors, tension), intellectual symptoms (lack of concentration, delayed reaction times) psychological symptoms (panic, depression) and behavioral changes (increased consumption of alcohol / caffeine, changes in eating habits). These symptoms can occur in many different variations and combinations.

Stress itself is basically not negative. It challenges us, sharpens our senses and often makes for good performance. If stress becomes a permanent condition though, it makes you sick.

What happens in the body during stressful periods?

Stress arises when the senses signal the brain that the body is in danger. Then, various substances are released in the body, including the hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

This has multiple effects: blood pressure and blood sugar levels rise, as do breathing and heart rate. In addition, the pupils dilate. In short, energy is released and the body operates in full swing. Biologically, this makes sense because in earlier days stress was used to help us survive dangerous situations, usually situations of fight or flight.

These days, we are no longer faced with the danger of fight or flight. Unfortunately, man has created other stressors. These include:

  • significant life events such as the death of a loved one or becoming the victim of a crime

  • everyday annoyances that add up and become a burden

  • private problems such as financial hardships

  • stressors in professional life - bullying, work pressure, or being under- or overwhelmed

  • different fears - fear of failure, fear of life

  • environmental factors such as noise

  • physical problems

The body solves these problems by going into a state much like the earlier fight or flight state our ancestors experienced. Unlike those times, we are no longer doing battle or trying to escape. This means that the physical activity which would have reduced our stress is lacking, so our stress is not relieved. This means that chronic stress can set in, increasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease. The risk of developing diabetes or becoming overweight increases. In addition, the immune system is weakened, whereby the susceptibility to disease increases.

Stress can also be perceived positively. This depends on the duration, the intensity and the belief that the stressful situation is manageable. A quick assessment of whether or not an event triggers positive or negative stress occurs unconsciously. Nevertheless, our resistance to stress can be increased by taking certain measures.

Next week, we will continue this article by explaining some of these measures.