We all have been told, and occasionally experience firsthand, how stress affects our bodies and makes us feel.  That feeling is not good. 

Stress weighs heavily on our thought processes and emotions, and has direct physiologic implications, including changes in heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol levels, and increasing inflammation in our bodies.  Stress may also influence our health indirectly via increasing activity that may be unhealthy: excessive TV watching, poor dietary choices, alcohol use, smoking, and lack of exercise. 

It’s been postulated that stress in-and-of-itself has a more negative impact on our bodies than poor diet, lack of exercise, and tobacco use combined.  It is not uncommon for those of us in the healthcare field to ask how stress is affecting a client’s health.  Inquiry has always been used to help in self-realization and possibly behavior modification (realize stress is affecting your health = change the stress or the way you react to it = improve your health).

While we all vary in our reaction to stress (as, admittedly, some thrive on it), a recent study from Europe made claims that merely thinking that stress was causing health problems…caused health problems!   Over 7,000 people, mean age of 49.5, were followed over 18 years.  Those who initially reported that stress caused ‘a lot or extreme’ health problems, had 2.12 times the heart disease as those who reported stress did not cause health problems.  The study’s authors concluded that the perception that stress affects health, different from perceived stress levels, was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. 

So, if we both read that correctly, it is one health disadvantage to have a lot of stress in your life.  It is even unhealthier to think that the stress is unhealthy… Now I am stressed because I do not know what to think.  William Shakespeare may have been correct when he said “Nothing is right or wrong – only thinking makes it so”.

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