The Harmful Effects of Stress

by Glenn Petruzzi

Understanding the Impact of Stress on Mental Health

Stress is a natural part of life. It’s the body’s response to a perceived threat or challenge. In small doses, stress can even be helpful, motivating us to take action and perform at our best. However, chronic or unmanaged stress can have a significant negative impact on our mental and physical health. This is where mental health counseling can play a crucial role in helping individuals cope with stress and improve their overall well-being.

How Does Stress Affect Mental Health?

Chronic stress can manifest in various ways, influencing our:

  • Emotions: Increased anxiety, irritability, anger, sadness, and feelings of hopelessness.
  • Thoughts: Difficulty concentrating, negative thinking patterns, and intrusive thoughts.
  • Behaviors: Withdrawal from social activities, changes in sleep or eating habits, and substance abuse.
  • Physical health: Weakened immune system, headaches, muscle tension, and stomach problems.

In some cases, chronic stress can even contribute to the development of mental health conditions like:

  • Anxiety disorders: Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
  • Depression: Feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, and changes in appetite or sleep.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of a traumatic event.

Stress is Killing You

Stress is the biggest killer of our bodies. Data published in Nature Reviews found that elevated cortisol suppresses the function of the NK cell, thus allowing viruses to take hold and cancer cells to survive in the body. Individuals under constant stress often have outbreaks of shingles and/or cold sores; for some, stress causes the diagnosis or return of cancer. Additional research in The Lancet found that stress-induced suppression of NK‑cell activity caused tumor development.

Your body is killing cancer cells every day but the increased amount of cortisol allows the cancer cells to survive and other ailments.

This is why stress is important to monitor and manage.

  1. Exercise 30 minutes a day can regulate these chemicals naturally in ways that nothing else can. Exercise has been proven to be just as effective as psychotropic medication. Consult your physician of course but even if you stay on your medication, please take advantage of this amazing thing.
  2. Nutrition – plant-based, low-carb, slow-carb diet meaning that your body digests the food slower and thus makes you feel satisfied and helps you have nutrients in your body.
  3. Alcohol for those who are 21 and Coffee and other Caffeine must be moderated. They can impact your sleep and your health in dramatic ways.
  4. Sleep 7-8 hours a night. I am an earlier riser. I have not met anyone who has lived past 60 that doesn’t get a good night’s sleep. You can’t cheat your body. It will always keep you honest. Sleep may be the single biggest killer of people. It is almost like your body dies so it can sleep and catch up on the sleep you didn’t get. There are hundreds of medical and psychological articles on the benefits of sleep. Emotional health is dependent on that.
  5. Supplements and vitamins – Probiotics and Vitamin D can make a huge effect of your mood.
  6. Cold shower therapyWim Hof Method – 5 seconds a day you can work up to 2 mins. You may make fun of me but don’t knock it till you try it.
  7. Psychiatry – If you have tried a lot of things but you are really depressed and anxious it is important that you see your Primary Care Physician. It might be beneficial to explore medication. We have such a stigma toward psychotropic medication or medication that affects your brain and mental state but we don’t feel bad about someone taking insulin for their diabetes. We have to think about the fact that both are chemicals that are not naturally regulated in our bodies.
  8. Being outside in nature can change your whole mood and outlook. We must be outside for at least 15-30 minute walk in green spaces. A study done by Nature speaks about the benefits of being outside for 120 minutes weekly. Changing your environment. Our human bodies are not meant to be inside that long.
  9. Breathe deeply even for 1 minute a day.
  10. Drink 8-10 cups of water a day

How Can Mental Health Counseling Help?

Mental health counselors are trained professionals who can help individuals understand the root causes of their stress and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Through various therapeutic techniques, counseling can help individuals:

  • Identify and challenge negative thought patterns.
  • Develop relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness and meditation.
  • Improve communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Build resilience and manage stress more effectively.
  • Develop healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with challenging situations.

A Biblical Viewpoint

The word Shalom is a Hebrew greeting much like Aloha, which means hello and goodbye. It is used as a salutation by Jewish people at meetings or parting, meaning “peace”. It means peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility.

Adam and Eve disobeyed and the Shalom of God was lost for them.

Adam and Eve were at peace with God and all He created. Their needs were supplied. They did not suffer hunger, disease, or pain of any kind. Beauty surrounded them so that they could experience and enjoy it. They weren’t lonely, for they had each other, and more importantly, they had an intimate relationship with their Creator. If any people ever experienced peace, it was Adam and Eve. The condition of peace existed in the garden only as long as they were obedient to God’s will. Unfortunately, they disobeyed and the shalom of God was lost for them.

But I have some good news. Shalom is available to us again. Through the Prince of Peace!

When Jesus said that the Holy Spirit was going to be given to you after the resurrection was going to remind you of everything he told us. Then he says Peace (shalom) I leave with you, my peace (shalom) I give you. I do not give it (peace/shalom) the way the world gives. When it comes and goes based on circumstances.

Shalom means wholeness. Someday we will enter the garden once again in the Paradise of God. Paul prayed that our whole body, soul, and spirit would be sanctified through, and through that is my prayer for you as well.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.

We pray that you will experience God’s Shalom Daily.

If you are experiencing chronic stress that is impacting your daily life, seeking professional help from a mental health counselor can be a crucial step towards improving your mental and emotional well-being. It’s important to remember that you are not alone, and there is help available.

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