Are you falling ill too often? It could be linked with your stress levels. Research shows that there are very important and obvious linkages between stress and illness. High levels of stress are known to decrease the strength of our immunity level, which is why germs and disease agents can affect us more easily. A common cold is actually the body’s response to attacking disease agents. When the body prepares its fighter cells, it needs you to be resting. The process of raising one’s immunity can also increase body temperature. That is why we sometimes get fever and cold together.
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In fact, it is estimated that a lot of illnesses have stress as a major factor. General physicians suggest that up to 70 % of the cases that they see have at least some component of stress. Usually, stress and back pain as well as other localized pain are also linked. It seems that a lot of people who go to their doctor, do not need just medications, but an understanding of the effects of stress and how to handle it.
Why does this happen? Why does stress give us physical symptoms?
To understand this, one must look at the evolutionary perspective. According to this, a lot of the ways in which our bodies and minds function is affected by how we evolved. From the point of view of evolution, the development of the prefrontal cortex (which allows us to think, plan and feel complex emotion) is a new aspect and may yet be unaccomodated for. Therefore, ‘stress’ in prehistoric times meant that there’s a lion lunging at you, and the body had to go into overdrive.
The body would produce the relevant resources to deal with this threat to life. This would mean more blood flow to the limbs to run, increased heartbeat, and so on. Such threats were not an everyday occurrence. However, now-a-days, the daily stress we face is not the life threatening kind. But our brain still cannot distinguish between the two. So each time you feel stressed, blood flow and other vitals get disrupted to make way for a stress response.
It must be understood that we encounter stress in much more frequency as compared to the prehistoric man. Therefore, our system might be going into over-drive several times a day! On top of that, we make our organs weaker by faulty eating, smoking or drinking. The combined effect of all this is that stress starts to affect our health in very obvious physical ways.
Work-life balance is a key to handling stress. Consumerism never makes us feel that we have enough and we keep pushing ourselves to earn more and spend more. It is an endless cycle that takes a toll on our mental health. Even though modern medicine has increased average life expectancy, we are still struggling to make the quality of our life as high. Stress still rules our working day. This needs to change.