Recent studies have found that 90% of Australians feel they have too much stress in their lives and, that the leading cause of stress is work-related.
The corporate world in particular is a stressful place for many (if not all!) people. If your boss says things like 'this is a stressful job, you'll get used to it,' 'no pain, no gain' or 'stress is good for you' they are being somewhat disingenuous.
Stress (the chronic, long-term, anxiety-provoking type) is demonstrably NOT good for you, as indicated by literally hundreds of scientific studies.
When your boss or upper management fat cats say stress is good for you, what they may be referring to is what's called positive stress or 'eustress' (Hungarian-Canadian endocrinologist Dr Hans Selye coined the term eustress 1975 and he was clearly onto something because the term is still widely used today).
What is eustress?
We experience eustress at work when we think a task is within our coping abilities. Eustress is essentially that excited, motivated feeling you experience when you are taking on a challenge you're pretty confident you can handle. Importantly, eustress is something you experience over a short time-frame.
Regular old stress (the kind most of us talk about when we say we're stressed-out') on the other hand, does not make us feel good. Quite the opposite, it makes us feel anxious and overloaded because we don't feel we can cope with whatever the situation is. Importantly stress negatively impacts on performance and it can be a short-lived or chronic feeling.
If you are feeling anxious, not sleeping, or manifesting any other negative side-effects of stress you know very well that your boss is barking up the wrong tree. The harsh reality is that chronic stress makes you sick and it can even (eventually) kill you.
Let's take a look at why.
What does stress do to your body?
- It causes your adrenal glands to release adrenalin and cortisol - which makes your heart rate accelerate and pump more blood to your muscles and important organs
- It causes you to breathe faster - in order to get more oxygen into your blood
- It causes your blood vessels to constrict - sending extra blood to your muscles
- It causes your liver to produce more glucose - raising your blood sugar, to give you an energy hit
- It causes your muscles to tense up - so you are ready for action
Now on its own, none of these physical responses cause a healthy human body any problem, so long as the stress is short-lived. But the reality is for most of us, particularly those in stressful jobs, stress is a chronic state of being. The above listed effects of stress on your body don't sound so harmless when you're experiencing them 12 hours a day!
When stress is a chronic condition, it can cause problems like headaches, heartburn, shoulder pain, stomach upsets, anxiety, irritability and difficulty sleeping. Stress can also pave the way for more serious conditions like chronic high blood pressure (a precursor to heart attack) and diabetes. That's why we say stress can kill you!
But chronic stress can have even more impacts, some of which are not widely known
Did you know that chronic stress can:
- Speed up the ageing process by causing cells in your body to age and die prematurely
- Potentially negatively affect the IQ of your children (according to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2009)
- Reduce your bone density - potentially leading to osteoarthritis
- Impair your brain's ability to form new memories and effectively respond to new situations - essentially when you are super stressed you are cognitively impaired!
Don't wait until you snap to get help managing your stress and anxiety. Contact Health Way Clinic today to see how we can help.