Psychological stress has important implications for both physical and mental health.
The human body has systems that trigger protective physiological responses to
acute stressors, such as being in a threatening or dangerous situation or maybe just
rushing to catch a bus. In these “fight or flight” circumstances, the body releases a
surge of hormones, mainly epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol. These hormones
increase the heart rate, increase glucose levels in the bloodstream, elevate blood
pressure, and prepare the body for action. And when the stressful event is over, the
body’s physiology quickly returns to normal.
Our bodies are less well equipped to deal with the protracted mental stress that
results from issues such as financial troubles, relationship problems, traffic jams,
stressful jobs, and the other chronic stresses of modern living.17
Stress can result from experiencing a single traumatic event such as a car accident
or a single sexual assault, or there may be ongoing trauma from domestic violence,
recurrent child sexual abuse, or community violence. Chronic stress can be related
to an event such as a divorce or death of a family member or societal prejudices
concerning individual characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, national
origin, immigration status, cultural practices, accent, religion, dress, and age
among others. Perceived unfairness in school admissions, hiring practices, position
advancement, and other social situations can also be a source of a traumatic event
or chronic stress.
Everyone has worries, but when they become pervasive, and out of control, the constant
stress may cause symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, and
irritability. Early childhood chronic stress and trauma, rather than a single event,
can lead to adverse anatomical and neuroendocrine changes in the brain. Among
the harmful effects of prolonged, unrelieved stress and elevated stress hormones is
an increased risk of many physical health problems, including hypertension, heart
disease, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, cognitive impairment, including
memory problems, and depression. For example, the Baltimore Memory Study
carried out by Johns Hopkins researchers found that high levels of the stress hormone
cortisol were linked to poor cognitive performance in older individuals.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.