Post Attributed to Brandon Wood, FAST Facility Manager (Litchfield Park location).
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Brandon Wood is the facility manager of our Litchfield Park FAST location. He has years of experience as an athlete himself, and has trained athletes and individuals at every fitness level. He knows the effects stress can have on the body, and how it can drastically impact fitness and health. That’s why he’s here to explain what stress is, what causes it, and how to manage it.
There’s no question that there are many possible sources of health problems in today’s world, but you may not be aware of all of them. One factor that people are either unaware of, or often take for granted, is stress. Here are some little-known facts about the effects of stress:
- Stress is considered to be the number one proxy killer in today’s society, otherwise known as a “silent killer”
- According to the American Medical Association, stress is the cause for more than 60% of all human illnesses and diseases
- Stress costs businesses here in the United States $200-$300 billion dollars each year due to loss of productivity and treatments for stress
- 95% of Americans put up with some form of stress each week
- Untreated stress is a greater risk factor for cancer and heart disease than smoking and foods high in cholesterol
These facts show that stress poses a significant threat to many peoples’ health and possibly lives. So what is stress? Stress is something that people feel when they are overwhelmed with work or when they feel as though they have more things to do than they can actually handle. According to Webster’s Dictionary, stress is a “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.” Stress can also be the way that someone reacts to a certain situation, or feelings caused by being put under pressure.
Although no one likes feeling stressed, it can be good for you. Stress essentially tells the body that you are in danger, and this is why some scientists say it helps us survive by causing what is known as the ‘flight or fight’ response – our body’s security system. We are built to react to stressors to protect us from predators, or anything else the body perceives as a threat. ‘Flight or fight’ is a quick injection of stress hormones and adrenaline into the bloodstream, increasing a person’s strength and endurance. It speeds up the heart, increases the blood flow to the brain and muscles, your muscles tense up, you breathe faster, and the digestive system stops, allowing for more energy to flow through other parts of the body. Once the body feels as though the danger or threat has passed, this system will help bring our body levels back to normal.
Many things in life cause stress, and different situations cause stress to different people. Personal problems, social situations, money, major life changes, lack of sleep, or even your surroundings can cause stress. Additionally, jobs can be a major source of stress for many people. They may feel stressed because they don’t like their job, because it is too hard for them, or they could be having a hard time finding a job. Sources of stress are often uncontrollable, so it is important to learn to live and deal with them. However, dealing with the effects of stress can be the hardest part.
Stress can have varying effects on the body, some of which can lead to major issues. Stress can cause headaches, chest pain, fatigue, anger, loss of social life, or even drug and alcohol abuse.
The effects of stress greatly depend on whether stress is acute or chronic. Acute stress causes an increase of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine in the body. This relates to an increase in glucose delivered to neurons located in the brain, which can help with the function of the brain. Acute stress can also enhance clotting, decrease pain sensitivity, and increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Hence, acute stress can actually be beneficial to the body. Chronic stress, however, can be very dangerous. Our bodies are not meant to deal with chronic stress, or stress that occurs over a long period of time. Studies have shown that chronic stress is related to six of the top causes of death – heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, liver cirrhosis, and suicide. Chronic stress is also related to sleep problems, depression, and trouble with memory. Cortisol released during the first 30 minutes of acute stress can be beneficial, but excessive cortisol will begin to decrease the function of the body’s immune system. An overreaction to this can cause autoimmune disorders like allergies and arthritis, whereas an under-reaction can cause bacterial infections, the flu, or even cancer. Excessive cortisol levels can also inhibit formation of new bone growth, and will begin pulling calcium out of the bones, ultimately resulting in bone loss.
It is important for people of all ages to manage stress as best as they can. What are some ways to manage stress? As I mentioned earlier, certain situations may cause stress to one person but not the other. Similarly, everyone has a different stress relieving method. Some of the most effective ways to manage stress are:
- Eating healthy
- Getting a healthy amount of sleep every night
- Finding time to relax
- Spending time with friends and family
Without a doubt, stress is a part of life. We all deal with stress all throughout our lives, and it can be beneficial, or harmful. The key to managing stress is to find what works best for you and to apply this behavior to your everyday life. Hopefully the information presented here will help to educate and allow you to take a step back, find the stressors in your life, and begin to make positive changes for your overall health.