Chronically Stressed Out is Destroying Your Health!
If you find yourself stressed out more often than not? You’re not alone!
Stress costs the United States healthcare system more than $300 billion annually (that’s $100 billion more than what the U.S. is spending every year on obesity-related illness). This is spent on stress-related compensation claims, reduced productivity, absenteeism, health insurance costs, direct medical expenses, and employee turnover.
Experts estimate that depression – one of the most common manifestations of stress – will become the number one reason for occupational disease (lost days of work) in the United States within the 21st century. It’s already the basis for 9% of long-term disability claims.1
The Health Cost of Stress
While it’s costing us a fortune, the toll stress is taking on your health is far worse.
The American Institute of Stress has some pretty shocking statistics about this subtle (but oh-so-dangerous) condition that drastically affects your long-term health.
We live in a stressful world and it's clearly worsening.
A recent article in Time reported that 13% of Americans (age 12 and older) are currently on prescription antidepressants.3 That number is a 65% increase since 2002 and researchers agree the numbers will continue to grow.
What Are Your Personal Triggers?
Stress triggers could be financial, illness (yours or a loved one), relationships, loss of a loved one, politics, career, or from any number of sources. As major as a pending divorce or as minor as your morning commute.
Being stressed out is the mental and physiological reaction to perceived demands of daily life that exceed one’s ability to cope or respond to the situation(s) in a reasonable manner.
The symptoms may include anxiety, depression, insomnia, and fatigue. The inflammation caused by stress has been linked to multiple diseases and conditions ranging from the minor to the catastrophic.
Stress is killing all of us (and not slowly anymore).
The health of your body affects your mind and the reverse is also true. The power of your brain to stimulate physical changes inside you is well-documented by countless studies.
Negative psychological states such as stress, depression, and anxiety can result in the over-production of dangerous pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines and down-regulating overall immune response. This can lead to greater risk of disease, prolonged infection, and premature death.4
Being Stressed Out Isn't "Normal"
If you exist in a chronic state of stress, you begin to accept it as a normal aspect of your life. "Normal" is an incredibly hazardous way to think about this insidious disease.
Acute stress is a natural, normal part of your body's "fight or flight" response. It’s short-term stress that lasts minutes (for instance, during a car accident), hours (preparing for a test or interview), or a couple of days or weeks (following surgery, rushing toward completing a deadline, or awaiting a court proceeding). Experts agree that acute stress helps you focus, keeps you motivated, and assists in "urgent response" when needed.
Chronic stress is not a natural or normal part of your system function. This is long-term stress that doesn’t get resolved. It typically stems from big events such as childhood abuse or trauma, war (post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD), grief that doesn’t fade, relationship dysfunction, or an illness that is chronic or terminal. This form of stressed is deadly and significantly increases your risk of cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, or other forms of mental illness. 5
3 First Steps to Managing Long-Term Stress
- Identifying triggers – the source of your chronic stress – is crucial to resolving it. Ignoring the cause or pretending it isn’t elevating your unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life is a recipe for disaster.
- Regaining control over your own life is vital to getting better. While you aren’t likely to get rid of all your stress, you can take steps to ease specific areas at a time. For example, addressing problems within your work or home life that can be fixed.
- Choose yourself and your health every time. If you know dealing with a neighbor or family member always makes you stressed out, then you need to evaluate their place in your life and make choices to protect your mental, physical, and emotional health.
Natural Ways to Deal with Chronic Stress
Antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs) may or may not help you.
The truth is that a great many people who are stressed out, anxious, or depressed don’t seek help. Those who do tend to get a prescription for the "latest and greatest drug" that’s going to supposedly solve all your problems.
Approximately one-quarter of patients on antidepressants experience debilitating side effects such as sexual dysfunction, sleepiness, or weight gain.
Some patients even report a worsening of their original stress, anxiety, or depression while taking an SSRI prescription. 6
There’s also a high possibility that they won’t do anything at all. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that most depressed patients in their clinical trial responded equally to prescription antidepressants as they did to the placebo. 7
This is one of several recent studies that found the same result.
The pharmaceutical industry profits for antidepressants is astounding and these drugs are being pushed on people who may not even have stress, depression, or anxiety. This makes it difficult to determine how many people are truly suffering, who is getting help, and who is receiving a drug they don’t need.
If you’re a person who doesn’t improve on prescription antidepressants or who has had a negative reaction to SSRIs in the past, you need to incorporate natural methods of managing your chronic stress, depression, or anxiety.
3 Top Nutritional Helpers for Coping with Stress
- Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that’s required by your body (and your brain) but cannot be produced. You can only get it through your diet. Tryptophan is used to manufacture serotonin. Dietary sources include beans, chocolate, oats, yogurt, eggs, meat, poultry, almonds, bananas, and seafood. If you don’t get enough in your diet, supplementation is recommended.
- Omega-3 fatty acid is another essential compound that’s similar to amino acids – your body needs it but is incapable of making it. You have to eat what you need! About 60% of human brain weight is fat (it’s the most fat-rich organ of the body). Of that, 30% is composed of essential fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are critical to brain health. Dietary sources include fatty fish (salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines), fish oils, walnuts, flax seeds, eggs, chia seeds, and spinach.
- Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) is another amino acid found in 40-50% of all brain synapses. It’s the most common neurotransmitter you have, in the highest concentration. In fact, it’s present in concentrations 200-1000 times greater than other well-known neurotransmitters serotonin, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine. Again, your body can’t produce it so you need to eat it. Good dietary sources are almonds, walnuts, bananas, broccoli, brown rice, fatty fish, lentils, spinach, and citrus.
The foods mentioned are readily available, inexpensive, and effective. They operate on the cellular level – providing the building blocks to produce mood-calming hormones – and have the potential to be more effective than pharmaceutical options.
To help you escape constant feelings of being stressed out, depressed, or anxious, you have to look at every area of your diet and lifestyle. Providing your cells the basic ingredients they need to help you feel better is a good place to start.
Now, you’re going to need to do a bit more than that. Stress is likely affecting many areas of your life and overall happiness.
Developing a few coping mechanisms to deal with spikes in stress may be helpful.
- Practice deep breathing and/or meditation
- Talk to a friend or loved one you trust who may offer a different perspective
- Exercise (even low-impact) for 30 minutes every day
- Limit or eliminate tobacco, alcohol, and highly processed foods
- Return to hobbies or activities you once enjoyed
- Make sure you get 8 hours of sleep each night (melatonin may help)
- Hydrate with plenty of plain or infused water daily
Experts agree that simply writing about the stress you experience is helpful in regaining control over negative situations. Journaling is an excellent way to identify your personal stressors.
Sometimes, you might be so close to a situation that it’s difficult to see your way clear of it. It can feel overwhelming or exhausting.
Don’t lose hope.
You are not alone and there are many natural, safe options for coping with feelings of being stressed out, anxious, or depressed. Things you can do right now to help yourself feel better and think more clearly
For more fascinating information about how stress (and other factors) affect how your body ages.
It will change the way you think about getting older (and how you fight it)!
1Forbes: When Work Stress Yields Depression It’s Unbearable
2American Institute of Stress: Stress is Killing You
3Time: 13% of Americans Take Antidepressants
4The Ohio State University College of Medicine: Depression and immune function: central pathways to morbidity and mortality
5Health Central: Acute Stress vs. Chronic Stress
6Psychiatry (Edgmont): Real-World Data on SSRI Antidepressant Side Effects
7Scientific American: Antidepressants: Do They "Work" or Don't They?