Module 1: Lesson 4
Effects Of Long Term Stress (10 min.)

SUMMARY POINTS

> Constant and prolonged stress will mess you up
> Our minds react to many stressors as life-threatening when they’re really not
> Stress management techniques can help break the stress cycle

When you’re exposed to stress constantly for long periods, it can totally mess you up.

Your body simply can’t be in a constant state of emergency fight/flight stress response. It creates a severe hormonal imbalance. If it is not kept in check and managed well, it can wreck your life.

Our minds are truly incredible things capable of doing some really crazy shit. There are countless examples of “mind over matter” that prove this. But, one of the things it really sucks at is determining what is truly life-threatening or not.

Will a jammed printer kill you? Never.

Will the scathing email from your boss end your life? No way.

Will being stuck in traffic cause your death? Nope.

Will working with that asshole co-worker put you in the grave? Nah, maybe the other way around 😉

Will the long line at the store checkout counter take your life away? Not a chance.

Will losing all the unsaved data give you a heart attack? Well, actually...hmm (haha)

The point here is that none of these stressors will actually kill us. But, our minds will often react as if they will and unleash all the stress hormones into our body.

And, when you combine this with the fact that many of these stressors happen on a daily basis, our body has the potential to be stressed all day by suffering through one stressor to next. This pattern could go on for weeks, months and even years.

Being in a constant state of emergency will destroy your health - period.

This study from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine shows that dealing with daily hassles can make you more vulnerable to illness and other psychological symptoms. And when these daily hassles get more severe so do its negative impacts.

To make things worse, our minds have the ability to recreate the stress again even after it’s long gone, “That other driver this morning was such an asshole. I can’t believe he wouldn’t let me merge in. I had my turn friggin’ signal on.”

Or, in other cases, our minds can even develop new chain reaction stresses that haven’t even happened yet. That’s right, it can make shit up, “If that project is assigned to me, it’ll be impossible for me to do. I’ll get rated poorly on my annual review and get fired. I’ll run out of money and lose everything.”

This is thinking into the future of what possible negative things may be coming soon. This is called anxiety.

Damn, our minds are just plain evil.

In whatever form, prolonged exposure to stress can result in the following:
- Increases the chances of heart attack and stroke
- Wrecks the immune system
- Amplifies depression and anxiety
- Increases blood pressure
- Scrambles memory and logic
- Messes up the digestive system
- Diminishes sex drive
- Prevents restful sleep at night
- Triggers headaches and body pains
- Destroys concentration and judgement
- Screws up appetite and metabolism leading to weight gain or loss
- Causes skin outbreaks and acne

It’s not a pretty list, right? And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The list goes on.

As your mind gets exposed to stress repeatedly for long stints without recovery, it’s threshold to release stress hormones gets lower and easier to set off.

When this happens, it becomes really hard to break out of the cycle. And before you know it, you’re stressed out every day, all the time.

On some days, it almost seems normal and expected, even though it’s painful. This gets dangerous because you don’t realize the damage you’re doing to yourself.

In order to break the stress cycle and prevent it from spiraling out of control, you need to do develop and consistently follow stress management techniques that work for you.

We’ll get into this in the next module coming up.

But before we do, watch this quick video from the SciShow about chronic stress. It summarizes a lot of what we’ve covered thus far and a bit about what we’ll cover next.

VIDEO: How Chronic Stress Harms Your Body
YOUTUBE CHANNEL: SciShow Psych

LENGTH: 5:35