A life less stressed: Is stress destroying your quality of life?
Stress has always been a part of modern life, but a recent study suggests life is more stressful than 20 years ago, particularly for millennials. This generational cohort face lower job security; money worries; struggles to get onto the property ladder; the social pressure to be always on; plus political upheavals in the UK and America, mean the world can increasingly feel like an unfriendly and threatening place.
Even positive life changes such as getting a promotion or taking a holiday can be stressful!
New research in the field of psychoneuroimmunology (a field which studies the psychological impact of stress on the body) reveals the impact stress has on the mind. Chronic stress can put you at risk of mood disorders. Studies have shown that young people exposed to chronic stress early in life are more prone to mental health problems.
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is triggered by prolonged stress. Studies have shown that PTSD sufferers experience a change in their brain structure, with some evidence that they can experience a reduction in the number of brain neurons. This affects learning and memory, but also emotional regulation; increasing the chance of depression and anxiety.
Having said all of this, stress is also a positive motivator; it drives many of us to get tasks done.
But it is this fact, which can make it tricky to recognise when stress is becoming detrimental to our health.
I like to think about stress as being on a spectrum of intensity; from low, to intermediate, to chronic.
Each individual has their personal threshold of where ‘low to chronic’ stress starts and stops.
Scientific evidence suggests that it is prolonged chronic stress, which has a significant negative impact on physical and psychological health. Often chronic stress is an outward symptom of deeper underlying problems.
Signs of chronic stress:
- regularly suffering from insomnia; therefore always tired
- frequent illnesses due to a lowered immune system
- increased alcohol consumption
- over or under eating
- frequent headaches
- irritability and low mood
If you’re suffering from three or more of these signs on a regular basis, it might be time to address the issues perpetuating a stressful existence. Although stress is an inevitable part of modern living, it is manageable and doesn’t need to be a constant dark cloud hanging over you.
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About Lorraine Green
Lorraine is a therapist with practices based in London and Brighton. She has worked as a counsellor for several mental health charities and has experience of a wide range of mental health issues.