When we remain in a constantly activated high stress mindset, we negatively impact our long term health and our pocket book.
Chronic stress costs money and affects every aspect of our lives. It has long term impact on our personal health and it especially affects our families, our relationships, and our ability to do quality work on our job. Our worries and fears have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.
Replacing negative thinking and behavior patterns with positive problem solving can reduce distress and allow us to be proactive.
In a Wellness workshop I gave several years ago, the following facts and figures were available at that time. Although these statistics are several years old, they give us a chilling reminder of what chronic stress can cost us.
• 30 million Americans have some form of major heart or blood-vessel disease
• One million Americans have a heart attack every year
• 25 million Americans have high blood pressure
• 8 million Americans are alcoholics
• $15.6 billion are lost by American industry each year because of alcoholism
• 5 billion doses of tranquilizers are prescribed each year
• 5 billion does of barbiturates are prescribed each year
• $19.4 billion are lost by American industry each year because of premature employee death
• $15 billion are lost by American industry each year because of stress-related absenteeism
Stress costs the American industry about $300 billion annually or $7,500 per worker per year. Those statistics are probably higher today.
Stress Affects our Immune System
In 2004, a team of psychologists published findings from a review of nearly 300 scientific studies linking chronic stress and the immune system. These studies, dating from 1960 to 2001 and involving 18,941 test subjects, showed incontrovertible evidence that stress causes changes in the immune system.
Our immune system helps us fight off diseases. What they found was that short-term stress temporarily boosts immunity, but chronic stress weakens the immune system, making people more vulnerable to common ailments and serious diseases. In particular, the elderly and people already suffering from an illness become more susceptible to changes in the immune system due to chronic stress.
Other studies show that it isn’t just the stress we are feeling today that harms our ability to fight off disease. Exposure to chronic stress early in life makes us even more vulnerable to a depressed immune system throughout our lifetime.
Stress deteriorates behaviors and lifestyles
When stressed we don’t take care of ourselves. We are more likely to overeat, eat foods high in carbs, fat and sugar or junk food. Foods offer us a quick relaxer from our stress. When stressed, we don’t exercise or take presecribed medication. Or, we overmedicate. Alcohol, tobacco or other drugs are used as a quick fix.
If you find yourself in constant turmoil, high anxiety and worry, it may be important to take a look at ways you can reduce these levels. There are many things we have no control over. But we can choose different responses that can minimize stress instead of escalating it.
Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC