We all know that stress can damage our health. But there is more to know about the relationship between stress and health. The latest and best research confirms that it is particularly stress that is either unrelieved for long periods of time, or that we feel powerless to respond to that does the real damage.
Look around you at the many examples of stress in the biological world. Most animals, including humans seem to be built to withstand short periods of intense stress. We are being chased by a large and frightening predator, so we run like greased lightning to get away.
That is certainly stress at its most intense. We either get away or we don’t. If we do succeed in getting away, the stress seems to do no harm. But that is because although it was intense it was of relatively short duration, allowing us to release and use all that adrenalin and related chemicals, and then to quickly return to a more “normal” biochemical state.
In contrast, what if we get a letter from the bank saying that they are foreclosing on our house, or what if we get a layoff notice, or suffer some other setback that we do not see a way to resolve anytime soon? Now we are under stress that lasts a long time. Research has shown that this is the type of stress that truly can damage health.
Besides duration a factor that determines how damaging a stress may be to ones health is the perceived power to respond or the perceived lack of power to respond. If I encounter a setback and can see a way to turn things around or otherwise respond and improve the outcome, that does not seem to cause significant health damage even though the condition causing the stress may last a relatively long period of time.
However, if I experience a setback or a perceived threat and I feel unable to affect the outcome and the stress lasts for a relatively long period of time, that can have profound health consequences. Research has shown that this set of conditions profoundly affects the chemistry of the body, including all systems – brain, heart, digestion, immune system, etc., in adverse ways.
The most important factor in mitigating the potentially harmful health effects of stress seem to be the perceived ability to respond and exert some level of control over the outcome, and then the length of time that the stress lasts. Most research in this area ranks these factors in that order – ability to respond, and time period. (See Robert Sapolsky’s excellent book, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” for more about the relationship between health and stress.)
Knowing the potential to damage health that long-term stress can have, I am sharing a series of articles on strategies for responding to the current conditions that most of us are affected by these days. These articles contain valuable information mostly not found in the mainstream, that can empower you to respond to the stress and to protect yourself and your family from much of the harm that has so increased the stress most of us feel day-to-day.
The first of these articles is about short-term financial survival. Others will include critical information about making sure you and your family are able to feed yourselves, emergency medical best practices, shelter and a variety of crucial areas of knowledge and strategies to get through it all.
Remember, even extreme stress is not so damaging, and may not even be damaging at all if you are able to take action in response to the cause of the stress.
If you would like some practical steps you can take to address any “financial survival stress” you may have, click this link to go to the first article on financial survival.
To your great health!