21st-century stress – what is it and what are its sources?

24 January, 2020 / Mateusz

Although stress and its sources may be a familiar topic, we are still underestimating its impact on our lives, health and ability to function normally. We are aware of the fact that it exists, and we feel its impact, but research shows, despite growing awareness, we are becoming increasingly stressed and exhausted by demanding emotions. Let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon because better understanding often brings solutions.

Price for a comfortable life

Stress and its consequences affect most people in the world. Although the progress of civilization and technology have made us live longer, with comfort and in easier conditions than our ancestors, in the end, we have to pay a very high price for it. We report for medical treatment with a feeling of being lost, empty, lonely or alarmingly exhausted. Absorbed in competition and rivalry, with the desire to meet growing pressure to perform and overwhelmed by our responsibilities, we no longer feel joy and satisfaction with the things that we have managed to achieve.

In this way, we go around in circles very quickly. Let’s not forget, however, that stress can be positive and motivating, e.g. when we’re waiting for our wedding or when we’re performing in front of a crowd of people. However, even good stress that occurs too often or persists for too long can harm us. That is why it is necessary to identify the point when stress begins to destroy us.

Stress and the likelihood of diseases

There can be many causes of stress and surprisingly they do not always arise from negative situations. After all, we are stressed when moving house, by loans, sending a child to school, and even holidays. There is a scale of stress created by the duo of psychiatrists – Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe. The doctors interviewed 5000 patients, presenting them with a list of 43 events, which they called Life Change Units (LCUs).

Each of these situations was given a different “weight” of stress factor – the more stressful the event, the higher its weight. People participating in the study were to indicate which of these 43 events occurred in their lives. The more events, especially those with high weight, the greater the likelihood that a person will face many health problems.

According to Holmes and Rahe, the most difficult events in human life are (in order from the most stressful): death of a spouse, divorce, marital separation, jail term, death of a close family member, personal injury or illness, marriage, fired at work, marital reconciliation and retirement.

Work is the greatest stressor in the world

According to research from scientists, work-related stress incapacitates everyone, regardless of nationality. As many as 44% of French respondents said that getting to their workplace is their greatest daily stress. In turn, every tenth Briton suffers from chronic stress, related to official duties. In the European Union, the most stressful professions are teaching, nursing, journalism, social work, transport, policing and correctional services.

According to a study in Sweden, heart attacks among working people are most common on Mondays. The threat of being fired is one of the main causes of stress not only in Poland but also in Germany or Finland, where unemployment remains relatively low. It is not difficult to imagine what is happening in a society that is surrounded by stress from every possible direction.

Accurate diagnosis

Stress has so many sources and we have become so familiar with it over the years that today we cannot accurately assess the disease symptoms that accompany it. We attribute stomach problems to what we have eaten, we justify our headache with the weather, and we regard memory impairment and insomnia as a “sign of our times.” Remember that if we don’t respond to chronic stress at the right time, we may not be able to cure it ourselves.

We must not underestimate symptoms such as insomnia, lack of appetite, hunger pangs, constant irritability, lethargy, a feeling of alternating hot and cold, worsening mood, anxiety or panic attacks. Let’s not wait for stress to really devastate our body. Researchers warn us that sooner or later, we will pay for long-term stress. And its effects may appear even after a few years!

Symptoms of chronic stress are heart and circulatory system diseases, headaches (including chronic), backache, diabetes, osteoporosis, digestive problems, gastric and duodenal ulcers, dysregulation of the menstrual cycle in women, obesity, skin problems and hair loss.