"I am so stressed out!"
"My job just stresses me out!"
"I am stressing myself out over these wedding plans!"
"This stress is just killing me!"
The word is tossed as both noun and verb, but do we really understand what it means?
One dictionary definition is that it is, "A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances." This is only partially true, but is probably what we mean when we utter any of the first three sentences above. Unfortunately, the rest of the story, the heart of the story, is in that forth sentence.
Stress is a physiological condition. It is not just a mental response to environmental cues. Our bodies automatically respond to outside stressors with the 'fight or flight' response. This fight or flight response is the physical condition our bodies will adopt to protect us by making fighting or fleeing the top priority. Fat and glycogen (sugar) are liberated to enable the muscles to work very hard very fast. Digestion slows down or stops. The heart beats faster and harder.
The interesting thing is that just thinking about stressful things can cause the same response. This doesn't even have to be a conscious thought. If a person is worried about job security, for instance, they are not constantly consciously thinking about what will happen if they lose their job. Yet their subconscious mind is very aware of what that might mean to the survival of the organism. Thus, stressful environments, whether outwardly stressful or inwardly, causes chronic stress. If the body cannot fight, flee or otherwise discharge this energy, the body is always in a state of fight or flight.
Stress related complaints comprise about 85% of all doctor visits. The top causes of death are all stress related. As much as stress costs us personally, stress in the workplace costs a staggering $300 billion (with a 'B') per year...about $5000 per employee.
And all of that is avoidable.
While we can't always avoid stressors, sometimes the stress response itself is preventable. At the very least, when it isn't preventable it can be managed to minimize the physical, mental, emotional, financial and societal effects. We know how!
I can help.