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Health, Science, The Mind

Feeling Stressed? Find out if Your Health is at risk…

Feeling overworked and stressed out? There must be lots of looming deadlines because there’s lots of stressed-looking people at work at the moment. Based on current research today’s blog will tell you if stress is affecting your health. Read on to find out whether taking a break could help save your life…

Do you suffer Road Rage?

Imagine this situation: You’re on the way to work and everything seems to be against you. You woke up late, had an argument with your partner then spilt half your breakfast down a clean shirt. Running behind schedule, you are desperately hunting for a car parking space; the clock is ticking and all the spaces are taken… Finally you spot one! But just as you start to reverse in another car appears out of nowhere and drives into ‘your’ space! How are you feeling and what would you do?

And your results show…

Based on your personality you can find out how vulnerable you are to the effects of stress. Did you take the personality test in the previous blog? If you missed it, you can try it out here.

  • Did you stop and think about what to do? If so, you probably scored highly as a ‘conscientious’ personality type. People like you treat adversity as ‘problems to be solved’ and you tend to do much better in stressful situations. If that’s you – feel glad because you cope with stress well!
  • Would you get angry, upset or depressed? If you have a personality with a high score for ‘neuroticism’ then you’re more likely to have such a reaction. People like you know when you’re stressed because you ‘feel’ it. Be advised: stressful situations are likely to be taking a toll on your health and it might be worth thinking about how you deal with stressful situations.
  • Are you an extrovert? If so, you would probably find it easy to get out the car and speak to them. Well, you’re probably fairly good at dealing with stress! Providing that is, you aren’t ‘neurotic’ as well!
  • If you are an ‘open’ or ‘agreeable’ person then you fall somewhere in the middle: stress could be a danger to your health but generally you can cope.

 So what if I get stressed sometimes?

Stress is a part of daily life and in itself there is nothing wrong with it.  If you had no stress at all, you probably wouldn’t get much done; it’s your body’s way of getting you ready for action (called the ‘fight or flight’ response).

Thankfully this doesn't happen every day!

Hormones (such as adrenaline) are released into the body help your mind focus and increase blood sugar levels. One of these hormones (cortisol) is released in the morning and helps you get out of bed!

Too much stress can be a bad thing. The ‘fight or flight’ response was most useful to our prehistoric ancestors when they needed to run away from a prowling bear or saber-tooth tigers. But stress in the modern age is often an argument or an overdue deadline (although some people may have to get ‘physical’ in their place of work)! And if you are getting repeatedly ‘stressed’ your body simply can’t cope; tests on animals that were continually stressed and annoyed showed that eventually they get apathetic and sick.

The health effects of stress

The physical effects on our bodies are wide-ranging. Stress often (incorrectly) gets blamed for a lot of things; for example you may be surprised that they don’t cause stomach ulcers and are not the main cause of strokes and heart attacks.  But repetitive, ongoing stress can lead all sorts of things: diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, susceptibility to infections, sexual dysfunction and depression. Stress also makes people drink and smoke more and not take good care of themselves.

I’ve got a stressful life, what am I supposed to do?

And relax!

The simplest way to avoid the health effects of stress are to simply avoid the situation that gets you worked up. This can be difficult especially if its part of your work or home-life. Relaxation techniques can help for lots of people, as can counseling. Trying to eat well, avoid alcohol and exercise will also help.

Exercise is perhaps one of the best things you can do; it’s what the ‘stress response’ is priming your body to do anyway! A quick jog after work will do a good job at negating the bad effects of stress by letting your body use up all of those ‘stress hormones’.

Don’t have time for all of that? Then try reciting this famous quote from Reinhold Niebuhr:

“Grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Hope you have a low stress day!

Links:

Find out more about stress: http://adam.about.com/reports/Stress.htm

BBC Mental Health: http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/emotional_health/mental_health/

Wiltshire College has a good selection of links and resources on mental health issues: http://www.wiltshire.ac.uk/customer_services/counselling_and_support/self_help_information/default.asp

Metal health issues: http://www.mind.org.uk/

‘Sort out Stress’ website: http://www.sortoutstress.co.uk/site/

References:

Sharon Grant, Janice Langan-Fox, Occupational stress, coping and strain: The combined/interactive effect of the Big Five traits, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 41, Issue 4, September 2006, Pages 719-732

Julie A. Penley, Joe Tomaka, Associations among the Big Five, emotional responses, and coping with acute stress, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 32, Issue 7, May 2002, Pages 1215-1228

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

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