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How Stress Is Making You Sick

Written by: Claude L. King, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Believe it or not, stress in the short term can be beneficial for you. The stress response primes your body to be able to respond, react, and process information very quickly. It gives us a boost of energy and allows us to combat the stressor. When the stressful situation passes, our stress hormones (cortisol & adrenaline) return to their baseline levels.

woman feeling sick and suffering from a headache, massaging forehand to relieve the pain, sitting on the bed.

But what happens if these elevated levels of stress hormones do not dissipate? This is when it becomes problematic! We all deal with stressful situations on a daily basis such as work, raising children, unexpected expenses, relationships, and occasional health issues. This is called normal stress. We are equipped at managing normal stress using a variety of different methods. Whether that be exercise, resting, talking to a supportive friend or family member, going on vacation, or taking deep, controlled breaths. But when stress overwhelms the body’s ability to cope, this will lead to traumatic stress. Traumatic stress, especially if it is chronic or ongoing, can cause considerable damage to the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of an individual. Your body is not equipped to operate with elevated levels of stress for prolonged periods of time. If you are not able to find healthy ways to return your body to baseline, you can become sick!


Chronic stress can cause you to develop PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety Disorders. But it goes deeper than that… It causes inflammation in the body and affects your muscle-skeletal system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, and reproductive health. What happens next is your body tries to find ways to attack and eliminate these bodily stressors. Occasionally the body becomes confused and will start to attack itself leading to the development of autoimmune diseases like: Type 1 diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis, Multiple sclerosis, Lupus, Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Graves’ disease, and Multiple sclerosis (MS) to name a few. In addition, chronic stress promotes the growth and spread of cancer, especially ovarian, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer, as well as tumors and growths in the body.


So, what do we do?! There are several things we can do to combat the physiological consequences of chronic stress. If you have been stressed about something for several weeks and it is not going away, it is time to take it make it a priority. If you are not talking to a therapist already, it is time to start. If your stress is work-related, reach out to your supervisor and explain how you have been feeling. See if a temporary lessening of workload may be possible. If not, prioritize taking time off work. This can be a couple of days or extended leave which is determined by how serious the issue is. Many people are interested in medication such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety. Medication is a helpful tool, but it should never be solely relied on. Medication makes the symptoms more bearable but does not address the source of the stress. It is the equivalent of putting a brace on a broken leg to help you walk. You may be able to move around but the break will not heal properly until you receive surgery.


When visiting your PCP due to a medical issue, do not forget to mention the stressors you are experiencing as well as they may be interconnected. Throughout the week, make time for self-care. Disconnect from electronic devices and other things that are addicting and distracting. Make time for peace, quiet time, and presence. This time is essential for helping the body self-regulate. It helps our minds and body to maintain a healthy equilibrium.


Our society prioritizes, work, making money, and being there for everybody during their time of need. We are really doing ourselves a disservice by neglecting our mental health which is causes us to get sick. So, I hope that reading this article will encourage you to make mental health a daily priority.


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Claude L. King, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Claude L. King is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and is the owner of CK Psych PLLC, a therapy practice located in Chicago, Illinois. In addition, Claude serves as an Employee Assistance Consultant for corporate clients providing short-term consultations and corporate-wide trainings in the areas of mental health, wellness, and other issues that impact work performance. His passion is to advocate, promote, and increase access of mental health services, especially within marginalized communities. Throughout his career as a clinical therapist, Claude has provided individual, group, and couples therapy for those impacted by traumatic stress, community violence, depression, anxiety, work stress, parenting stress, and issues affecting sexuality and intimacy. As a speaker, he has been featured on Newsy TV and served as a panelist for Amazon.com, Inc., Discover Financial, The Chicago Urban League, and various colleges and universities. His mantra is "Transformation Through Conversation."

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