Stress – How Perceived Stress Vs Actual Stress Affects Your Health
Stress affects your health in a variety of ways, all negative. Without going into all the biochemical specifics, suffice it to say stress, perceived or actual, floods your body with powerful stress-related chemicals that would be very useful if you were literally fighting or running for your life, and are very health-destructive otherwise.
Effects Of Stress On The Body
- Stress cause blood platelets to stick together, which raises blood pressure.
- Stress causes your body to burn essential nutrients at a rapid rate, which can lead to nutrient deficiency leading to poor organ and gland function.
- Stress interrupts digestion, which means food goes partially undigested and you get only a fraction of the nutrients from the food you would get otherwise.
- Stress floods your system with homocystine and cortisol, which are linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and a tendency to gain weight.
Types Of Stress: Actual And Perceived
Actual stress, which is largely unavoidable, includes environmental stress such as air, water and noise pollution, and other environmental factors including extreme temperature, dangerous weather and so on.
Actual stress, which is fully avoidable, includes things like smoking, excessive drinking, a junk-food, fast-food, high-sugar, nutritionally deficient diet, lack of sleep, pushing yourself physically beyond your limits, and doing anything that obviously works against your health and well being.
Sources of psychological stress, most of which is avoidable or certainly capable of being modified, may include things like relationship issues with a spouse, child or anyone; job-related issues; financial issues; self-esteem issues; goal and achievement related issues, personal integrity issues and so on.
When something happens that directly, physically impacts you, it is an ACTUAL stress. Drinking polluted water, dropping a hammer on your foot, eating a bag of cookies and washing it down with a quart of sweet tea; these are sources of actual, real stress.
Perceived stress is not actual, perceived stress has to do with the story you tell yourself about what something means. If your spouse runs late without calling, and you get all upset because you decide that means he or she is having an affair, then you upset yourself abut something that may or may not ever happen, and being upset about the thing you IMAGINE produces the SAME negative cascade of powerful stress-chemicals that flood your system as if an actual physical stress had occurred.
Perceived Stress May Be More Health-Destructive Than Actual Stress
If you think about something that has not happened, and your thoughts upset you, the stress response to those imagined events is a REAL STRESSOR that affects your health. This is how someone can use their mind to destroy their health, and while the stress is imagined, the damage is real.
A study published in The Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine reports that perceived stress is more destructive to your immune system response than actual stress.
Using blood samples taken over a 16-month period from study participants who had been vaccinated against meningitis C, researchers determined that people with high levels of PERCEIVED STRESS consistently measured fewer protective antibodies than all other groups.
Participants were divided into 3 groups;
1) Group one had Low ACTUAL Stress with no stress conditions beyond the ordinary. 2) Group two had High ACTUAL Stress with unusually high stressful circumstances. 3) Group three had High PERCEIVED Stress. Most participants in group three had low to normal stress levels, however, they perceived their lives as being highly stressful.
The group with high-perceived stress frequently had very low actual stress.
The group with HIGH PERCEIVED STRESS tested 80% fewer protective antibodies in their blood than either of the other two groups.
Discussion: The message here is clear; there is a DIRECT and MEASURABLE connection between your immune system strength and the way your react to the world around you.
The most notable thing about this study is the clear distinction made between ACTUAL STRESS and PERCEIVED STRESS.
Several of the study participants experienced the loss of a parent during the 16-month study period. By any standard, the death of a loved one is a highly stressful event, yet even those in this highest stress group had perfectly normal levels of protective antibodies.
Twenty seven percent of the participants reported high levels of perceived stress during the study and, to a person, this 27% had up to 80% fewer antibodies, even though in most cases, their ACTUAL stress was far less than other participants.
The message is clear. If you think you are stressed you get the negative health consequences whether or not the stress is real.
How does perceived stress weaken your immune system?
When you feel stressed your brain produces a cascade of powerful bio-chemicals called neurotransmitters. There are many different kinds of neurotransmitters, but the long and short of it is that stress related neurotransmitters can be HIGHLY DESTRUCTIVE to your health.
Constantly feeling stressed means you are constantly flooding your body with powerful chemicals that weaken your immune system and leave you more vulnerable to illness and disease.
Practical Application: The practical application of this information is obvious. Take control of your emotions and never let little things, (or big things), get you down.
Stressful situations occur, but ACTUAL STRESS, stress that you recognize, deal with and move on, will not harm your health.
Monitor your feelings and emotions. If something is bothering you, DEAL WITH IT. Your health is too important to let things bother you for very long, and besides that, (to quote my dad), what difference will it make in a hundred years? And to quote my wife, what difference will it make in an hour?
Remember this . . .
Stress-related bio-chemicals damage your health and those chemicals are made IN DIRECT RESPONSE TO YOUR PERCEPTIONS, not in response to the actual situation, and that means, simply controlling your response to things may go a long way to helping protect and preserve your health.
Remember, excellent health is a choice you can make, and you make that choice every day with your diet, nutrition and lifestyle decisions. So learn everything you can… and choose wisely.