Stress is something that most of us are familiar and unfortunately there are very few people who don’t encounter it on at least a semi-regular basis.
In fact, stress is one of the key challenges of modern living and one of the things that can most impact on our happiness and well-being. It can prevent us from relaxing on our time off, it can cause us to make silly mistakes and it seriously undermines our health. When it’s allowed to continue it can eventually lead to depression and other serious mental health disorders.
Consider stress then to be ‘the enemy’… and you know what they say: ‘know thy enemy’. When it comes to stress, knowledge certainly is power and the more you understand about this complex phenomenon, the better your chances will be of managing the symptoms and maybe even defeating it once and for all.
Read on then and we will look at some of the top stress facts that you may be unaware of and that could prove useful in the battle against anxiety and stress.
1. There Are Different Types of Stress
We often use the word ‘stress’ as an umbrella term for all kinds of anxiety. Actually though, it’s important to realize that the word stress can in fact be referring to all manner of different things.
One of the main ways to categorize stress is as either ‘chronic’ or ‘acute’ stress. Acute stress is stress that comes on very suddenly and lasts only for a brief window of time – it is the stress you feel when working towards a deadline for instance or when you suddenly realize you left the stove on at home.
Chronic stress on the other hand is stress that is ongoing and that is less easy to put to an end. For instance, chronic stress might be occupational stress caused by not enjoying your job or not liking your boss. This is chronic stress because it isn’t ‘going anywhere’ and is going to continue for a long period of time most likely. It’s this type of stress that is most likely to have negative health consequences.
2. Not All Stress Is Bad
Another important way to differentiate types of stress is to remember that not all stress is bad. ‘Eustress’ is the term used for stress that actually has positive benefits beyond the negative effects.
How can stress be a positive thing? A good example is taking an exam scenario. While you don’t want to be too stressed such that it impacts on your health and well-being, you also need a little bit of stress simply in order to feel motivated. It’s stress and the thought of failing that actually encourages us to knuckle down and do our revision and if we didn’t feel it at all, we’d end up not bothering and ultimately failing. There is a fine line to be walked here.
The idea that not all stress is bad is one of the lesser known stress facts but when you realize this it will help you to embrace stress in the right circumstances and thus use it more to your advantage.
3. Stress Improves Your Physical Performance
Were we in our natural setting, then all stress would have been eustress. There was no such thing as having an angry boss when we were cavemen so any source of stress would have been something we could address. Likewise, most stress would have been acute in nature.
And here then is where the true value of stress can be seen. As actually, when you’re stressed you’ll find your muscles become more powerful, your focus is enhanced and your reflexes improve. One of the most amazing stress facts is that it even causes your blood to clot slightly, which is to prevent you from bleeding out in the case of an injury.
Stress might not feel pleasant – especially when it’s chronic and abstract – but in fact that is your body going into an overdrive ‘performance’ mode.
4. Stress Can Cause Hair Loss but Not Make You Go Grey
Get your stress facts straight! Most research suggests that stress can’t turn your hair grey (which some experts still debate however), but on the other hand it can increase hair loss. Telogen effluvium is the technical term for hair loss and it has been shown to occur three months after an acutely stressful event.
5. The Most Stressed People Are…
If you’re a surgeon living in New York, you’re likely going to be one of the most stressed people in the world.
This is according to surveys that suggest the most stressful cities in the US to be Chicago, LA and New York and the most stressful jobs to be pilot, photojournalist, real estate agent and advertising account executive.
What are the least stressful jobs? Those would be dietitian, astronomer, systems analyst and software engineer. Time for a career change?
6. The Number One Cause of Stress…
Can you guess what the number one cause of stress is? It’s money. Something that most of us can associate with to some degree!
7. Stress Can Cause Fat and Acne
Stress can cause acne by raising levels of sebum (which makes skin oily) and weight gain via cortisol levels. This is an example of how stress facts can help you to manage symptoms – if you struggle with either then consider that stress might be the cause.
But did you know that stress can also cause fat cells to inflate? This is what researchers call ‘diseased fat’ and as you might guess from the name, it’s not good!
8. Stress Comes From Latin
The root is actually found in the word ‘stringere’ which means ‘to draw light’. Appropriate, seeing as stress feels like it saps all the light out of life a lot of the time.
9. Stress Is Responsible for 30% of Fertility Issues
Potentially anyway. That’s because stress causes erectile dysfunction and lowered sperm count in men, as well as causing the fallopian tubes and uterus to spasm, affecting implantation. Stress also changes the hormonal and neurochemical makeup of a woman’s body which impacts on the maturation and release of the egg.
Once the mother is pregnant, the problems continue: stress can increase the chances of pre-term labor, intrauterine infection and more.
10. Stress Can Impact Your Brain Power
Stress can cause your neurons to shrink and die – which in turn could lead to impaired cognitive ability. Meanwhile, stress can also make the ‘blood brain barrier’ more permeable meaning that more potentially harmful substances can pass through and affect it.
Post-traumatic stress in infants meanwhile can actually alter the structure of the brain – shrinking the hippocampus which is normally associated with memory. This could be an example of Freud’s ‘repression’ in action!
Stress also increases headaches while hyper-arousal leads to insomnia.
11. ‘Acoustic Stress’ Can Kill You!
Acoustic stress is stress caused specifically by loud noises. A burst of loud noise can trigger something called ‘Long QT Syndrome’ (or LQTS) which is a disorder of the electrical systems of the heart. This is believed to be responsible for up to 3,000 deaths a year!
At the same time, low-level noises and even noises below the frequency of human hearing can also elevate stress levels.
So there you go, a ton of stress facts that you possibly weren’t aware of! As is plain to see, stress is a highly complicated and multi-faceted problem and should be treated as such.