Stress is an unavoidable part of our daily lives. What was originally meant to increase survival rates and aid instincts has now transitioned into an inextricably linked factor present in most all life experiences and interactions. Being overly stressed can have extremely negative effects on both physical and mental health. We live in a society that for some reason glorifies stress. We are more likely to praise the broke college student juggling their studies along with jobs and multiple campus organizations or an office tycoon balancing multiple accounts at once opposed to less involved lifestyles that are generally accompanied by less stress or stress that is more easily handled.
When some of the most common complaints are stress related, why aren’t we praising and adapting towards more stress-free lifestyles?
While it’s true stress can affect everyone in different ways, it’s incredibly important to learn healthy coping mechanisms early on in order to handle different stressors in life. For example, Rachel Goldman, a psychologist specializing in health and disordered eating, has studied unhealthy food-related coping mechanisms: “There’s a reason you turn to these foods when you’re stressed out…you’re experiencing a concept called ‘emotional hunger.’ Goldman conducted a study on bariatric patients to show the difference between stress eating and binge eating. Binge eating is when someone eats a large amount of food quickly at then feels guilt about eating that food. Stress eating is impulsive, but it’s not always followed by guilt” (CNN, 2017).
The availability of food and it’s sugary addictiveness has become a viable option for stress-release which has only increased levels of obesity and type II diabetes. Likewise, in a new study comparing blood pressure and risk of heart disease, 157 men and 153 women, ages 30 to 51, were recruited. They underwent “brain scans while hooked up to blood pressure and heart rate monitors. The participants also completed tasks designed to frustrate”(EWN, 2017). Peter Gianaros of the University of Pittsburgh told Reuters Health, “We’re trying to basically decode brain patterns that can tell us about a person’s sensitivity to stress that might be connected with their risk of heart disease” (EWN, 2017). This particular study found that stress directly impacted health. With Gianaros’ study in London, “researchers found that a particular pattern of brain activity during frustrating and stressful situations was tied to a larger-than-expected increase in blood pressure” (EWW, 2017).
It’s important to realize what environmental factors affect individuals in order to best equip them with appropriate ways to handle stress. When stress isn’t properly dealt with, people can be at risk for health problems and suffer from depression and other unhealthy mental states that often stem from comparing other’s abilities to handle stress with one’s own. When chronic stress begins to decrease immunity function and cause insomnia and headaches, it’s necessary to realize lifestyle choices or coping mechanisms may need to be changed.
Stress relief varies from person to person. While exercise, yoga, meditation, or massage therapy might work for some, others may need to verbalize their stressors.
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CNN. (2017, August 24). Tina Fey stress eats sheet cake on SNL: How healthy is that? Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.local8now.com/content/news/Tina-Fey-stress-eats-sheet-cake-on-SNL-How-healthy-is-that-441655713.html
EWN. (2017, August 25). Brain activity tied to blood pressure during stress. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://ewn.co.za/2017/08/25/brain-activity-tied-to-blood-pressure-during-stress
Nelson, T. (2017, August 25). These Stress Techniques Can Work Better Than Warm Milk. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from https://www.thriveglobal.com/stories/12213-these-stress-techniques-work-better-than-warm-milk
Racoobian, T. (2017, August 25). Stress and the Mind-Body Connection: How to Build Resilience. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from https://baptisthealth.net/baptist-health-news/stress-and-the-mind-body-connection-how-to-build-resilience/