The long-term effects of stress on one’s health are significant. Over seventy-five percent of visits to family doctors are prompted by stress-related symptoms. Stress is more than just a nuisance or something that occasionally makes people feel nervous or anxious. Chronic stress can affect one’s health in very significant ways. It dramatically lowers the body’s immune response and slows the healing process. Reducing chronic stress increases the strength and vitality of all bodily functions.
A Stressful Job Increases Heart Disease
One common example of long-term stress is the effect of a very stressful job. Several large studies have demonstrated that a stressful job more than doubles one’s risk of a heart attack. A large British study of over ten thousand white collar workers over a twelve year period found that people who felt stressed at work were sixty-eight percent more likely to die of heart disease, suffer a non-fatal heart attack or have exertional chest pain (angina).
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: (Philippians 4:11)
Research has indicated that subjects with a high level of perceived stress to certain life events experienced a greatly decreased level of immune response. They had only a third of the level of “natural killer cell activity” of those who experienced the same life events but perceived them as less stressful. For example, they had steep reductions in salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA speeds healing, reduces the danger of infection, and controls heart rate. Reduced IgA is linked with lowered resistance to disease.
A study from dental students in Columbus, Ohio found that stress can lengthen the time wounds take to heal by as much as forty percent and reduce by two-thirds the production of one cytokine – interleukin-1 – that is vital for the healing process.
Another study entitled Stress Slows Wound Healing showed that stress-induced slow-down of the healing process occurs in the first few days after injury. Applying PowerStrips as soon as possible after an injury releases the stress response for much quicker healing.
“The present report meta-analyzes more than 300 empirical articles describing a relationship between psychological stress and parameters of the immune system in human participants. Chronic stressors were associated with suppression of both cellular and humoral measures.”
- Constant worrying
- Unexplained Anxiety
- Poor judgment
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Focusing on the negative
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Rapid heart rate
- Frequent illness
- Erratic behaviors
- Substance abuse
- Needing to get away
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (Philippians 4:6)
One study found that helping and caring for others reduces the negative effects of stress of young people living in adverse life situations.
“According to these young people, assuming a helper role provided a strong sense of purpose in life and contributed to their self-efficacy, social connectedness and ability to cope with their adverse past. In particular, supporting others seems to reflect care leavers’ wish to lead a normal life.”
There are many studies suggesting that people who engage in regular caring, helping, volunteering — people who experience compassion and choose altruism — do not show the relationship we expect between stress and negative health outcomes.
When the body is flooded with oxytocin because of helping someone, you are feeling compassion and connection. When you are feeling that emotional state, it is part of the biology that is actually reducing inflammation and strengthening the heart.
There are four primary chemicals in the brain that affect happiness: endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. They all play a role in reducing adverse symptoms of stress.
For a meditation technique for overcoming chronic stress, see the post, “Heart is Emotion Center”.
Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add on cubit to his stature?
So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not worry, saying “What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or “What shall we wear? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25-34)