Stress is an unavoidable part of modern life. Yet for many, it can have a damaging impact on emotional, mental and physical health.
20% of absenteeism is due to stress
A survey of 2050 adults carried out by Mind, the mental health charity, found that one in five working people take time off for stress and one in ten have sought professional help to deal with stress.1 Many of us also perceive that stress is becoming more prevalent, with 59% of British adults saying their life is more stressful than it was five years ago.
Modern stressors are widespread
Of course, our in-built stress response is key to our survival. Without it, we would have become some predator’s lunch thousands of years ago. The problem is that although most of us are far safer than our cave-dwelling ancestors, we still face challenges that trigger the same ‘fight or flight’ response many times each day. Workplace politics, traffic jams, disagreements at home, money worries, having too much to do and too little time to do it – all of these problems activate the same stress response with the same release of adrenalin. So too does a dip in our fuel levels (blood sugar).
Diet contributes to the burden of stress
Unfortunately, today’s high-carb, stimulant-loaded diets create a rollercoaster ride of fuel highs followed by lows, so adding to your body’s stress burden and making you feel more stressed, tired and hungry.
Increased risk of disease
As well as reducing your enjoyment of life, ongoing stress is bad news for your health. Each month, more research reveals yet more harmful effects of too much stress. For example, studies have shown that those of us who experience regular stress have a five-fold increased risk of dying from heart-related problems and double the risk of developing diabetes.3,4
This is because, as well as generating unpleasant emotional sensations, stress triggers a cascade of hormones and chemicals that, over time, accelerate ageing, encourage inflammation and degeneration, and increase the risk of disease.
The good news is that we have compiled an Action Plan to deal with feelings of stress; this includes some simple changes that we can all make to feel better and to re-balance our emotional, mental and physical health.
1 Mind, ‘Mental Health at Work: Populus Survey of Workers in England and Wales’, 2013.
2 ‘Nearly half of adults feel stressed every day or every few days’, press release, Mental Health Foundation, 8 January 2013.
3 N. Vogelzangs et al., ‘Urinary cortisol and six-year risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality’, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (2010), vol 95(11), pp. 4959–4964.
4 A.K. Eriksson et al., ‘Psychological distress and risk of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes in a prospective study of Swedish middle-aged men and women’, Diabetic Medicine (2008), vol 25, pp. 834–842.