Stress guide: Why should we care and how to beat it

Our world is speeding up exponentially and not every nervous system can cope with it. More and more people face stress and in this article we will talk about stress and how combat it supporting our ideas with scientific data.

If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it. – US actor and comedian who attained the age of 100 years old.

The German company Techniken Krankenkasse (deals with insurance and health care provision) carried out a study and concluded that 8 out of 10 Germans suffer chronic stress and the level of stress is growing each year. Every second respondent says that within the last 3 years their life has become more stressful. In the group of risk are people between 30 and 40 years old as they have to balance their life between career and family and help their own parents.

Effects of stress on your body

We have reviewed many scientific sources and made a list of key negative consequences of stress on the body and health of people.

  • Stress shrinks our brains. Scientists from Yale University came to this conclusion after they had studied the brains of 103 healthy subjects. When people face serious problems such as divorce or dismissal, the size of their brain literally shrinks especially in the area responsible for emotions and physiological functions. The scientists warn us that the decrease of grey matter volume can cause mental health problems.
  • Chronic stress leads to a higher risk of diabetes in men. Swedish scientists from the University of Gothenburg have been studying stress for 35 years and came to conclusion that chronic stress in men can cause diabetes type 2 irrespective of their social and economic status, body mass index and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Stress can cause premature aging in children. Cells in the brains of children who were bullied at school or abused at home are aging and dying faster. Thus, there is a high probability that such children will experience premature aging in future.
  • Stress leads to a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes. Anxiety and stress increase the risk of heart attack by 27%. Moreover, people who had heart attack and then experience stress have a 42% higher risk of recurrent attack within 2 years.
  • Chronic stress weakens immunity. When we experience stress, our body releases a stress hormone cortisol. The immune system is not able to inhibit cortisol under chronic stress and, consequently, it does not work as effectively preventing our body to combat different diseases. Under stress a person can not recover from a common cold for a longer time and can easily catch cold.

Work – stress factor number 1

University College London carried out a study published in The Lancet. The results of the study show that people having stressful jobs, 23% more likely to suffer heart stroke.

Stress at work is also associated with a higher risk of diabetes in women. These are the results of the Canadian study published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine.

Another Finnish study shows that stress is the cause of premature aging. Telomeres, the stretching of DNA, play an important role in the process of aging. With time, telomeres get shorter, however because of stress they get shorter even faster which leads to premature aging.

Negative attitude to stress is even more dangerous than stress itself

All people suffer stress to a certain degree. However, it is our attitude to stress that influence how strong is the impact of stress.

Professor David Almeida from the University of Pennsylvania believes that people who are irritated  about their busyness  are at a greater risk of developing stress-related diseases then people who are also busy but do not worry much about that.

Scientists from the University of Wisconsin studied the impact of attitude to stress on the health of a person and came to conclusion that stress and its negative perception increases the risk of premature death.

Thus, we should learn to respond adequately to irritators. It is almost impossible to completely avoid stress but it is important to learn to manage it and look for something positive in every life situation. For example, if you have a lot of work and it pisses you off, think of it as your chance to acquire new skills that can help you do the same job much faster; you will become stronger or will have a better memory.

By the way, there are many techniques to fight procrastination and you can apply to them to combat stress as well.

How to combat stress

We reviewed scientific papers to find out the ways to combat stress and we made our own list of things to do against stress:

  • Smile and laugh often. Find some funny videos on YouTube that will make you smile or laugh. When we are laughing, our body releases endorphines, our mood becomes better and we relax. 
  • Read books. According to the University of Sussex research, 6 minutes of reading is enough to reduce the stress level. When we read, we concentrate on the story and get distracted from our routine and problems.
  • Call your mom. If you can not see your mom face-to-face, just call her and talk to her about what worries you. A call to your mom reduces stress as effectively as a hug.
  • Eat dark chocolate. One research found out that people with chronic stress who ate 40 grams of chocolate had a lower level of cortisole, the stress hormone.
  • Have enough sleep. Healthy sleep also helps to fight stress. More information about the impact of sleep on the body is here.
  • Do sports. When we are doing physical exercises, our body produces endorphines, the hormones of happiness. These hormones help to manage irritation.
  • Meditate. Meditation is a very good option to manage irritation and depressions. 
  • Learn to say NO. Do not try to please everyone. Always remember about your own interests first. Many people are afraid to refuse because they think that other people wil not respect them anymore. They take the job or a task and then suffer, blaming themselves for their weakness. People who always try to please others typically can not solve their own problems and suffer chronic stress.