How People React to Stress: The Effects on Longevity and Health
Stress itself, and not just how people react to stress, may have an impact on a person’s health in the future. A new study conducted by Pennsylvania State University researchers first discovered these results after holding a study surveying a group of participants about how stress affects them.
The study itself was published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine journal, where researchers reported within the study that people harboring more stress and anxiety throughout their everyday lives were likely to develop chronic health conditions. These chronic health conditions may include arthritis and heart problems.
These conditions were found to manifest within a person at least 10 years after their initial stress affected them. In contrast, the people who approached their lives in a more relaxed manner avoided experiencing stress, and in turn, didn’t develop the aforementioned health conditions.
Study researcher David Almeida commented that he thinks that people present themselves as ‘one of two types.’ As an example, he described stress-harboring people as ‘Velcro people.’ These people are more likely to retain stress-harboring feelings within their state of mind, long after the negative factors first affect them.
‘Teflon people,’ the Penn State professor of human development and familiar studies remarked, are less likely to have those stress-harboring feelings remain within their mental state of mind, instead allowing the negative factors influencing stress to ‘slide away’ from them. The Velcro type of people are oft the one who suffer from stress inflicted health conditions in the future.
The study itself hosted 2,000 participants, who previously took part in the Midlife in the United States study. During a period of eight consecutive nights, each participant was surveyed by phone. Throughout the actual survey, each participant was asked about stressful and non-stressful events that happened in the past 24 hours, including how they reacted to the occurrences.
The eight night surveying period was setup to allow the researchers to observe the participants’ behavioral patterns. These patterns identified the participants who had a consistent reaction to stress-harboring occurrences and those who didn’t consistently respond.
Researchers also swabbed saliva from some participants to gauge their cortisol levels; cortisol is a known stress hormone. The same test was performed 10 years later, where the researchers found that those who reacted consistently to stress-harboring occurrences were the people who may have developed health conditions.
Older people, aged 65 and older, were found to have handled stress worse than their younger counterparts, as younger people may be exposed to more stress-harboring occurrences. How people react to stress is important.
How People React To Stress and AFS
There are numerous conditions that arise in high stress individuals. Many of these conditions such as chronic fatigue, increased levels of inflammation, and more can cause what’s known as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). This condition can lead to even higher levels of exhaustion that what we normally encounter in our daily lives.
When our bodies encounter what they see as stress, the system through which the stress is processed is known as the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. This NEM Stress Response begins to take place at the base of our brains at the hypothalamous and continues onto the pituitary gland, finally reaching the adrenal glands where most of the hormonal action takes place.
As we discussed earlier in the article, cortisol is a damaging hormone which, although necessary, wreaks havoc on the body when high levels are maintained over a long period of time. Because of this, when we are attempting to reverse adrenal fatigue and place ourselves on a path towards a sort of stress neutrality, it is important that we don’t react to stress in such a dramatic way. There will always be things in our lives which require us to be more alert and active but those things don’t have to be viewed as or treated as stressors.
Letting things roll off of your back and getting back to a calm state is important for healthy adrenal function over the long term. It is not easy to do but we are, in effect, killing ourselves when we allow stress to impact our lives in such a negative way. Harboring stressful feelings does actually have a physical effect and how people react to stress can compound the many issues that we all face. Take a look at how you’re currently handling your stressful situations and then consider how the NEM Stress Response might be damaging your physical well-being. Once we understand the big picture of how our bodies are affected by stress, it may become easier to put more effort into controlling our own outlooks regarding stressful events.