World Mental Health Day – A Call to Awareness
October 10 is World Mental Health Day, a day to promote and raise awareness for the importance of our mental health. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic recession, social unrest, and a contentious political environment have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders.
An article published by the Kaiser Family Foundation stated that in a recent poll, that over 50 percent of adults in the US reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress directly associated with the coronavirus (KFF, 8/21/2020).
Stress is something we all encounter on a regular basis, but in these trying times, it is particularly important to recognize your level of stress before it starts to have a negative effect on your body and mind.
Facts About Stress and Your Body
What many people don't know is that stress negatively impacts the body.
There are some downright scary facts about the toll that stress takes on the body. When you look at these facts it is hard to deny that we all need to learn how to manage our stress more effectively. Some of these facts include:
- 43% of all adults have health problems related to stress
- 75-90% of all doctor visits are stress-related
- 82% of workers are at least a little stressed in the workplace
- Stress is known to cost American businesses more than $300 billion each year
There are two kinds of stress. The "good" stress is called eustress, but we generally only hear about the "bad" stress known as chronic stress or distress.
Chronic stress has a gradual impact on your health. At first, in fact, you may not even notice the symptoms at all! If the stress is not managed, the symptoms will get worse and its effects may even be irreversible.
Here are seven significant ways in which stress may manifest itself in your body:
- Depression. When you are stressed, it is common to become depressed. There are only so many chemicals in the brain to help a person deal with stress, and when they are used up, they're used up. This can lead to a person becoming profoundly depressed in what seems like a relatively short period of time.
- Anxiety. Those who are chronically stressed often deal with high levels of anxiety. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, and this can cause many different changes in the physiological functioning of the body.
- Heart disease. Stress is closely linked to heart attacks and death associated with cardiovascular disease. When stress is not managed, the body – and especially the heart - is profoundly impacted.
- Diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world and both mental and physical stress can cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels. The long-term effects associated with this include heart disease, blindness, liver problems, kidney disease, and more.
- Hair loss. We often tease our friends and family when they begin to lose hair, but this can be a symptom of unmanaged stress. If your hair is falling out prematurely, look closely at how you are dealing with the stress in your life and see if there are things you can do to control it more effectively.
- Obesity. We often cope with stress by consuming unhealthy comfort foods and excessive amounts of alcohol which can result in weight gain. Stress also prohibits the control of necessary chemicals that are needed to break down fat, which can lead to obesity.
- Sexual dysfunction. Stress is one of the most common reasons associated with impotence in men.
As you can see, stress can affect your health in many ways. This is by no means an all-inclusive list of how stress affects your body and health. Stress has been linked to hyperthyroidism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, tooth and gum disease, ulcers, and even cancer. Stress is serious stuff! This is a good reason to start managing your stress.