Most people are likely to misunderstand how dangerous stress is.
How dangerous is stress, really?
Think about it for a moment, everyone is a bit stressed at least once in a while.
And why shouldn’t we be? I mean, life is hard, stuff happens, goals are supposed to be met.
Case in point, we can’t afford to take it easy, nor should we take it easy in the first place.
Such is life, and that the way that people choose to live daily.
We raise families, we spend money on things that aren’t necessities, we have a meaningful relationship and we work to the bone in an attempt to end our month with all of these things intact.
Sounds about right, yeah? Adult life is stressful.
Heck, children and teenagers are living stressful lives as well, although we adults tend to misunderstand that crucial fact.
Here’s something to consider, though.
Life is really harsh for most of us, and we tend to find ourselves getting used to situations that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to handle.
This effect is called “momentum”, keeping the same meaning from physics in mind.
It’s pretty basic actually, doing something in a certain way over time makes it much easier for us to handle.
That isn’t quite so when it comes to long-term effects.
Your body and mind learn to handle stress better, but they can’t handle it perfectly.
As such, you, as a person, deteriorate over time, leading you to suffer from all kinds of illnesses and disorders that supposedly landed out of nowhere.
I sure as heck felt the same way, since it was expected of me.
Back in the military, it was expected of us to wake up every morning in 5 a.m in the morning, to get dressed, to do a headcount (about 5 times or so, just because), and then spend the day either training or being subjected to (mostly useless) military discipline after 6 (or less) hours of sleep a night.
I thought that it was normal, and since everyone had to go through this then I should be able to do so too.
And I was, I went through all of my training without a single particular issue to point out.
Yet that doesn’t mean that I was Okay, I was just following protocol, it was expected of me and that was that.
And that’s the problem.
Stress is a known factor in our lives.
We get used to it, we ignore the extreme conditions that we are being subjected to just because it’s how it’s supposed to be, and that’s that.
Your body doesn’t care that your boss will fire you if you won’t get to work in time, despite the fact that you get up at 4:00 a.m every morning and work for 12 hours a day.
Nor does it care that your girl/boyfriend/husband/wife broke up your relationship, and how it clearly means that the world is ending.
No, your body only cares about cold biological facts, and as long as you continue harassing it with your never-ending bouts of stress then it’s not going to get any better, either.
Want to know how dangerous is stress to you?
I am about to answer this very question, so calm down, and let me prove you my point.
1) Stress impairs your emotional response and overall judgment
We all know stress pushes us to our limit, but what we fail to understand is that stress does a terrible job at making us act properly.
Think about it for a second, the whole idea of stress is to push you into action, any action.
When we judge things we often times tend to take our time in order to find the best possible solution, often time leading us into taking no action at all.
Our body knows that it’s a terrible way to do things, so it tends to react with a (un)healthy dosage of stress.
That’s the thing, stress limits some of our cognitive inhibitors and regulators, making the process of judging things and making decisions that much shorter.
It basically cuts down to your natural habits and responses
And it shows.
A 2013 study actually covered this to a degree.
In that study, participants were shown pictures of snakes and spiders in order to judge their control over their emotions.
Then they had their hands rinsed in ice-cold water for 3 minutes, in order to make them experience a mild level of panic, and were pulled through the same routine with the pictures yet again.
The people who had their hands rinsed in cold water had a much harder time getting over the pictures, so much so that it was declared that cognitive emotion regulation fails their stress test.
When it comes to making the best decision our instincts suck, that may actually end up leading to reckless behavior and damaging choices.
2) It weakens the immune system
People tend to underestimate how closely related the mind and the body are.
Cortisol is a type of steroid hormone that is closely related to stress and can be damaging to your body over time.
It’s a steroid hormone, and no steroid hormones are any good for you over time.
Research vastly backs this up, too.
A 2004 study, in particular, concluded that short-term stress may be beneficial, but chronic stress does damage the immune system.
I think we all know what a damaged immune system means, yeah?
Just imagine it, being so stressed out about every day of work, only to randomly catch a cold and stress out even more so because of that.
Such is life.
3) It may damage your gums and teeth.
Bet you didn’t see that one coming!
It’s true, nervous clenching of your teeth may cause bruxism (flat teeth, tired jaw and the like), which is caused by grinding your teeth.
Not only that, but research has found a significant correlation between chronic stress and gum disease.
Said research claims that people who suffer from chronic stress are 55% more likely to develop periodontitis, a type of gum disease, than those who don’t.
Disregarding infections in the mouth, which we already have discussed, stress can also cause sores around the mouth area, tired jaw, and a few other nasty symptoms.
Sure, you may argue that it’s not all that dangerous, and you would be right, but losing your teeth over a stupid gum disease would feel pretty terrible, wouldn’t it?
Yeah, I thought as much.
4) It creates brain damage over time
As I have shown before, stress can cause a lot of damage only over a long period of time.
The whole point of stress is to give us a short-term boost, our body is capable of handling that much.
Yet it can’t deal with stress over time, and in no other area does this show as much as it does in the brain.
Now, the truth is that we don’t know much about the brain, but we can experiment over time.
One such experiment would be a 2014 research from the University of California, reaching the conclusion that chronic stress predisposes the brain to experience mental illnesses.
Let’s dig a bit deeper – why?
Here’s the thing, cortisol (remember that name?) basically limits our hippocampus (responsible for memory, navigation and new information by extension) and forces our amygdalae (Responsible for certain emotional reactions, basically the driving forces behind anxiety) into overdrive.
Cortisol may also damage brain cell production (it’s the hippocampus’s job, after all).
It can also cause shrinking of the prefrontal cortex
Keep in mind, all of these are long-lasting damages, some of them are actually pretty irreversible.
5) It is bad for your bones
And here’s another thing that you probably didn’t see coming at all, yeah?
As it turns out, our body isn’t equipped to deal with long-term stress – a big shock, I know!
When it comes to your bones, studies show that (on average) lower bone mineral density is observed whenever higher levels of cortisol are found in the blood.
Cortisol inhibits the osteoblast formation and cell proliferation, something that decreases bone building and lowers bone density immensely.
Scientists have attributed this to an observed decrease in amino acids, claiming that it may be the cause of the osteoblast inhibition.
How dangerous is stress? More than you may think
Keep in mind, I haven’t talked about obvious things.
I didn’t mention any potential heart problems, or any mental disorders or anything like that.
I believe that most people are well-informed when it comes down to such topics.
No, These are merely things that doctors would normally not look for.
I mean, if someone comes to a doctor and is diagnosed with Osteoporosis (brittle bones), then the doctor isn’t going to assume that they are put under a lot of stress.
The same would apply to gum disease, immune system, and to a lesser extent, to any potential brain damage.
The diagnosis process is fundamentally flawed, but that’s not the real issue here.
If you have any of these symptoms then maybe stress is worth looking into, and even if you don’t – you might have learned something new today, something that could help someone else that you know.
Now, here’s a quick question for you – Did you know about these potential risks?
Make sure to write down your answer in the comment section below, I go through every single on of them.
Also, if you got any question you would like to ask me then just send a quick email, I always reply to those, too!