What is the Human Cost of Stress?

In a report published by Cigna in November 2018, more than 68million GP appointments and 3million emergency department visits were caused by stress-related illnesses. And in 2022, 88% of the UK workforce had experienced some level of burnout in the last two years.

The number of young people (aged under 55yrs) experiencing stroke has increased by 67% in the last ten years

You have probably heard of the terms ‘fight or flight’ and ‘rest and digest’ which are used to describe the two opposing functions of the autonomic nervous system: states of stress and relaxation.

When we receive stimulus it activates the release of chemical hormones to help our bodies cope with the situation. When we feel stressed the body releases hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline which are helpful for allowing us to stay alert, stay motivated and focus on the task at hand.

However, chronic (constant) states of stress prolong this response which will inevitably, over time, leads to illness.  Currently 79% of the British workforce claim to be experiencing the signs of burnout caused by stress.

  • Cortisol supresses the immune system which means our ability to fight infection becomes reduced and we will become sick more frequently.
  • Adrenaline increases our heart and breath rate which can lead to a build-up of plaque in blood vessels known as atherosclerosis which can damage the blood vessel wall and create clots.

If those clots are dislodged, they flow through the blood vessels as an embolism to our heart and brain and can potentially cause high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.

  • When we are stressed, our muscles become tense, particularly in the shoulder which can lead to aches and pain, headaches, and migraines.
  • The hormone system itself will become overstimulated and irregular causing issues with mood, reproduction, metabolism, growth, and development.
  • To cope with this the liver secretes more glucose, which if not reabsorbed will contribute to the development of diabetes.
  • And when our bodies are in a state of stress we are unable to ‘rest and digest’ which can disrupt our digestive system causing nausea, diarrhoea, bloating, constipation, and acid reflux.

What can we do to reduce stress? 

Ultimately, we need to break the cycle of stress with activity that creates feelings of relaxation; taking the body from high alert to rest and allow recovery.

Awareness and recognition is the first step to reducing stress. When we recognise we are feeling stressed, we are able to do something about it, which is the first step to dealing with stress and improving our physical and mental health and happiness.

There are two key things you can do that will help reduce stress; distraction and distance. How you create distraction and distance will be different for everyone, and may vary depending on the cause of stress.

Distraction is doing something that stops you thinking about your stressors. When you are distracted and your brain is not overpowering you with worse case scenarios your body can concentrate on restoring some balance, as cortisol levels drop. These are often referred to as recovery periods.

Cooking, walking, being creative, skydiving, watching football, running, gardening…the list is endless.

Distance is the act of creating space between what is creating the stress and yourself. This can be done in a number of ways. You can physically remove yourself from a stressful situation or person that is causing you stress.

Often we will find that stress is our head, caused by thoughts that become overwheling. So when we say things out loud, talk to someone or write down the things that cause us stress, we give it distance. It becomes easier to look at it with a different perspective.

Why is the YOLO Experience so effective at reducing stress?

YOLO Experience therapy uses a variety of emerging and traditional massage techniques with guided breathing to achieve physical and mental relaxation to allow your autonomic nervous system to reset and adjust.

By providing the YOLO Experience to employees in the workplace, they are often receiving a period of recovery at the point of most need; with research showing that 79% of employed adults experience workplace stress at least one day each month.

There are other activities that will help reduce stress including; taking time away from your desk to practice eating food away from any stimulus to allow your body to solely concentrate on ‘rest and digest’.  Mindful breathing, exercise, connecting with other people can help. Check the links for more tips to combat stress and information on how to spot the signs of stress.

Contact us to find out how we can help your teams reduce stress and improve their self-care, cbritton@yolowellbeing.co.uk or call 01772 283139

Stressed woman

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