Stress is an ever-present force many of us experience in our daily lives. From worrying about a deadline at work to dealing with a problematic relationship, getting overwhelmed and feeling like you can’t handle the pressure is easy. But most of us don’t realize that stress can have serious consequences — not only on our physical and mental health but also on our finances and relationships. In this article, we’ll explore the hidden costs of stress and how it affects our lives. From health risks to financial losses, we’ll explore how stress can take a toll. We’ll also look at how to take control of your stress and learn how to manage it in a healthy way.
What is Stress?
Stress is an internal set of circumstances that develop when we feel overwhelmed by events in our life. It’s a normal response to challenging situations, but how our bodies respond to stress varies from person to person.
What’s more, each person’s threshold for stress is different, which means that some people are more sensitive to it than others. While the internal experience of stress may come from external factors, such as a busy work schedule, it’s also linked to internal issues like negative thoughts, feelings of inadequacy, and a lack of self-worth. It is not those things that are the stress. We refer to those things as stressors.
When we experience stress, our bodies produce the hormone cortisol. This hormone increases our blood pressure and the production of glucose — the fuel that powers our brains and muscles. So while short-term stress is usually beneficial, long-term stress can damage our bodies and minds.
Physical effects of stress
Despite each of us having a different tolerance for the stressors in our life, some common physical effects include headaches, muscle tension or spasms, increased blood pressure and heart rate, indigestion, lower immune function, and a weakened immune system.
Stress can lead to digestive issues and affect your ability to absorb nutrients from food, and it can also cause your arteries to stiffen, which increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. These physical effects that science has uncovered after decades of studying stress can significantly impact our health.
Mental health risks of stress
Stress can seriously impact our mental health, so it’s crucial to be aware of our stress levels and take action when you start to experience it.
Studies have shown that people who experience chronic stress may be more likely to have mental health issues, such as issues with anxiety and depression.
When stress takes over, it becomes more difficult to maintain emotional health, and it is essential to know it is not your fault. Life is full of stressors, and cultivating a resilient mindset is critical to navigating these stressors.
Take a moment and imagine that there were no problems (stressors). And there were only moments of learning (opportunities)? What would be different? This is the vital distinction that transformed my mental health and my relationship with the stress that my body was experiencing.
Financial costs of stress
When your stress levels are high, it’s easy to make mistakes and mismanage your finances. This can have serious consequences — from missed payments to repossession. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, taking steps to manage your stress can significantly increase your ability to make sound financial decisions.
When the body is in a stressed state, it becomes more challenging to stay connected with your long-term goals. As a result, you will be more susceptible to succumbing to your impulses.
If your finances are out of control, you can do many things, but one of the first things is to check in with your state and answer the questions, “How stressed are you?” Then, based on your answer to that question, you can take baby steps to regulate your stress by joining a support group, hiring a coach, creating a budget or finding a trusted friend or family member you can talk to; it can help you identify ways to manage your finances while managing your stress levels.
Relationship problems caused by stress
Relationships are a big part of our lives, but stress can cause problems and wreak havoc on them.
When one or both people in the relationship are experiencing a lot of stress, it can lead to arguments, hurt feelings and an inability to navigate the day-to-day challenges of long-term relationships.
To be in a secure functioning relationship, you must be mindful of your partner’s needs and how they respond when stress impacts them.
In this way, you can be a catalyst for each other’s growth. When stress takes over, it is sometimes easier for others to see how your behaviour shifts and changes. For example, you may become more frenetic as your pace speeds up, forget to take breaks or lose sight of your fitness goals. When feeling stressed, it is easy to make excuses for these things, but if you are open to hearing your partner’s observations, you can get back on track.
On the other side, if you notice that you are being impacted by stress, it is essential to be open and honest with your partner, so they know what’s going on and can help support you when needed. This partnered approach to dealing with stress’s effects will strengthen and deepen your connection.
Stress and work
When your work gives you more stress than it should, it can be challenging to know where to start. So many people feel powerless over their workload or workflow. The digital age of emails and electronic communication changed how we relate to our work. Also, the 24/7 pace of the world has redefined so many industries, and the people working in those industries are feeling it.
You can, however, ask yourself: — What is causing my stress? — What are the triggers? — What is the impact? You can better understand where to start by answering these questions. It may help to speak to friends or family members. You may also want to talk to a manager of Human Resources or a trusted colleague to get advice.
Taking a baby step towards regulating your workplace step can be helpful, but taking the grin and bear it approach can be detrimental to your health. Taking care of yourself is essential to continue being your best at work.
Stress and social media
Social media detoxes are becoming increasingly popular these days and for a good reason. Social media influences so many’s lives and the way the platforms are developed is ‘hooking’ people in and, in some cases, a great source of stress.
The important truth is that staying away from social media may not be an option for everyone, but you can still take steps to lower your stress levels.
The most powerful tool you can have to protect yourself against the stress connected to social media is your ability to notice.
Notice how you feel after using social media. Next, notice what type of thoughts and perceptions of yourself you have after looking at your feeds. Finally, see what emotions you are present now that you have viewed your feed.
If you start to see that social media has negative impacts, then it is time to consider some next steps. For example, limiting your time, choosing just one platform to have a presence on, or if you are a business owner that relies heavily on social media, consider contracting that service. It is crucial to pick a strategy that works best for you, and if you are hooked, perhaps an all-out avoidance of social media might be your best option. But, on the other hand, I have had some people report it is the best thing they have ever done.
How to manage stress
Please remember one thing, and that is that stress is a normal part of life, but it’s critical to be aware of the signs of stress and know when it’s time to take action.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious or sense that things are out of control, you need to take steps to manage your stress. Remember, short-term exposure to stress can be good for your system and build resilience, but if your body is constantly stressed, it will begin to tear you down. Learning how you relate to stressors in your life, finding healthy ways to cope with them, and communicating with those around you is necessary to find balance.
There is always low-hanging fruit when it comes to managing your stress which may include: — Exercise regularly — Eating well — Sleeping well — Managing your time — Reducing your caffeine intake — Avoiding other self-harming behaviours — Getting support from others by learning how to ask for help.
The dilemma is that when we are stressed out, these things become more difficult or impossible to do. If this is the case for you, a more serious intervention and commitment may be required to break the cycle of stress in your life.
Sum it up
Stress doesn’t have to be negative, but it’s vital to know when it’s too much and be able to take care of yourself when it is. There are many ways to do this, and managing stress is not a one size fits all solution.
One of the most critical things that helped me in my relationship with stress was to commit to learning how my body, mind and spirit were responding to the stressors in my life. Stress is sometimes good! And once you know some simple tools, you can take back your life from the grip of stress and live a healthy and well-regulated life.
Dave is a Leadership and Life Coach living in Steveston, B.C., Canada.
Dave’s expertise in helping individuals and teams who feel stressed out and exhausted and that know that they want something different was forged in a lifelong journey of experience and learning.
In 2017, Dave left a career as a Senior Manager at a large Local Government organization after a long journey back from the grips of ‘burn-out’ to start Small Pause Coaching & Consulting. His philosophy about taking a pause and inviting in a new conversation, a deeper conversation, has supported hundreds of individuals and organizational clients. He is a Certified HeartMath® Coach & Mentor, a Certified Trauma-sensitive HeartMath® Practitioner, a trained Equine Guided Learning Facilitator and a Certified Coach with the International Coaches Federation (ICF). Dave took his coach training at the Newfield Network in Boulder, Colorado.
Dave also expresses his creativity through the Small Pause Shop, where he designs apparel that supports living life ‘inside the pause.’