We live in stressful times. The economy is tough, global conflicts rage, severe weather events are affecting people in every corner of the globe, and our numerous technological devices don’t seem to be making things any easier. Of course, this is nothing new. Every generation thinks theirs is the best of times and the worst of times. But the result is that people everywhere have high levels of stress.
Sometimes stress is a good thing. Mechanical stress, such as exercise, causes your muscles and bones to become stronger and your nerve system to become smarter. Taking on a new assignment at work or taking a challenging class in school may be stressful, but the effort involved in achieving a successful result will cause you to grow and develop in ways that you might not have imagined. After all, the great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously said “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
But chronic, ongoing physical and mental stress, the kind that affects us every day, is not good for us. Chronic stress causes real psychological and physical problems. People undergoing chronic stress may develop anxiety, which if not managed effectively may lead to depression. Chronic stress may lead to a variety of disorders and diseases, including arthritis, inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, gastrointestinal problems such as peptic ulcer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even heart attacks and stroke. As we are all subject to numerous stresses every day, both personal and work-related, it’s very important for us to develop strategies that will be successful in helping us manage ongoing stresses.
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- van Dijk, AE, et al: The association between prenatal psychosocial stress and blood pressure in the child at age 5-7 years. PLoS One 7(8):e43548, 2012
- Pereira VH, et al: Stressed brain, diseased heart: A review on the pathophysiologic mechanisms of neurocardiology. Int J Cardiol 2012 Apr 20 [Epub ahead of print]