Stress is the most expensive drain on your life that we face on this planet.
Nothing will ever take as much toll on your health, the quality of your relationships, on your productivity, on the quality of your thinking, on your wallet or the quality of your emotional experience.
The greatest poverty today, in the Western world, is not financial or nutritional.
The greatest poverty is in the ability to handle stress.
There are many people today who can have pretty much buy any object or experience that they desire. Yet without the ability to consume it with a clear and peaceful mind, they cannot enjoy it. So they can have whatever they want, but because they are peace poor, they might as well not have the thing.
This syndrome is the cost of stress?
Reduced Immunity and Increased Reaction to Illness
As we have seen on previous pages, the effects of stress are numerous and serious. One of the most concerning aspects are the health effects of stress.
Stress causes a reduced immunity to illness. Then even when you have an illness, stress exacerbates it’s effects. So stress makes you sick, then it makes the sickness more acute than it ever would have been.
Stress Ages You And Shortens Your Lifespan
The nature of stress is to overload your body’s system. Therefore it is like speeding up the revs on your body’s accelerator. In effect what happens is essentially that as a stressful 24 hours passes, your body has gone through the same amount of work as perhaps it would normally cover in 72 hours.
Therefore biologically, your body has aged three times faster than it should have. As a result your body’s systems degenerate quicker and you age quicker.
photo credit: Sergio Alvaré Peláez
One way to look at it would be like comparing two identical model cars. One has 100,000 miles on the clock while the other has had just 20,000. A stressful life creates a body like a poorly maintained and overworked car. Chronic stress therefore causes systems to break down and so the lifespan shortens.
In itself stress can cause weight loss, as the stress response leads to a cannibalisation effect. The body breaks down fat and muscle tissue to generate more fuel in readiness to ‘fight or fly’.
However this can become mitigated and overcompensated if the Individual turns to comfort eating as an emotional response. In which case stress can lead to weight gain.
In either case, since stress directly impairs the body’s digestive and absorption processes, to prioritise the fuelling of the major limbs in readiness for action, any food eaten is not benefiting the body nutritionally as it normally would.
Lower Energy Levels
Stress is like a brake on your natural enthusiasm and creativity. It is as if your spirit is being throttled. To live with prolonged exposure to stress would be like driving your car at the highest revs continually. It would not take long for it to burn out. And so your energy levels get drained by operating at high performance levels and so it feels as if you have nothing left to fight with.
Stress Causes Lower Productivity
Productivity is essentially a measure of how much you can get done in a certain amount of time. However the effect of stress is to constrict your thinking and to shut off your access to creative ideas and the ability to see alternative perspectives and so solutions.
Back in prehistoric times, it might take hours to craft a tool to go hunting with. Then the Hunter would have to walk and stalk his prey, then attack, drag the carcass back, set up a fire, cook the meat, all to feed his family and himself.
In the twenty first century, we can stop off on the way home to a drive through, collect dinner and eat it within 20 minutes. The same result with much less effort in a shorter period of time. All because we have access to a far greater range of resources.
Stress has the effect of constricting our access to resources. We think less creatively and expansively when we are stressed. We are snappier, grouchier and less concerned with what others have to say when we feel under stress.
Therefore by closing ourselves off to others, we lose access to much of the possible solutions that could come through others. Either through their experiences, expertise or simply being inspired by a comment that sparks off an idea in us.
So effectively stress has the effect of making us more primitive. So in terms of productivity we are losing much of the possible resources and networks that could enable us to get so much more done
Even beyond this, stress has the effect of making it more difficult for us to focus our attention and concentration at the task in hand. It lowers our motivation, enthusiasm and distorts our behaviour as we try to compensate through numerous coping strategies to bring ourselves back into balance. It depletes us of energy resulting in lower performance and in many, many ways makes us far less productive.
Imagine you were in a sailing race. One boat can concentrate fully on travelling as fast as it possibly can.
The other has a leak and so some of the attention has to be diverted to bailing out water.
Which boat would you bet on winning?
Being stressed is like racing in the boat with a leak. Stress is the leaking of your attention and resources along with your productivity.
Lower Energy Levels
Because of the physical response to stress, particularly the way it prioritises the way that the body uses fuel, it disrupts the body’s energy levels. So stress can make you feel lethargic and unable get going.
Stress constricts enthusiasm and motivation. It makes everything harder than it should be and knocks the body’s natural balance so far out that we are a weakened version of what we could be.
Stress Makes Us Less Effective and Less Capable
We have laws that prohibit us from driving or using dangerous machinery while under the influence of drink or drugs. Yet we allow people under extreme stress, sometimes even push them, to make life and death decisions.
An interesting study examined the effects of multi-tasking. Now multi-tasking is a form of stress, in that it is stretching our abilities by having multiple things to focus on.
One of the features of stress is that there is an underlying worry or panic about something that splits our attention and has been shown to reduce ability to concentrate or memorise.
Anyway the study tested Participants with an IQ test. One group did the test as normal, another did it while checking their emails and a third group did it while under the influence of Cannabis.
As might be expected the normal group scored highest, but the surprising thing was that those who were high on hash, scored better than the multi-tasking group.
In other words, multi-tasking makes you more stupid than pot.
The side effect is though, that while you are under stress, you will be less effective and less capable. Not only that, but you are also more likely to suffer insomnia and/or lower energy levels. Therefore you are going to be operating far below your peak performance.
Stress Is Also Creating Problems For The Future
I’m not talking about future health problems although that is also true due to the imbalances and quicker degeneration that stress causes. But I’m actually referring to the fact that as you are operating in a less effective state, you will be more likely to make mistakes and so create problems later.
Every problem has an origin. The more capable, the more foresighted one is, the less future problems they will create because they can take more factors into consideration and so can forsee and prevent other factors that interact with the task at hand.
People under stress tend to operate in a more panicked manner than they otherwise would. They are less resillient and persistent. The priority is to get rid of the immediate threat and pain. Expediency takes the place of accuracy. So what happens is that people will do things and make promises that they wouldn’t ordinarily do, to just be done with the situation. And so then comes the time when the bill has to be paid.
Lower Quality of Life
The real cost of stress though isn’t what may happen in the future through panicked decisions or health issues. The real cost is felt in the eye of the storm in terms of feeling like hell. Headaches that feel like your head has been drilled through. It’s the inability to relax. The inability to savour and enjoy life. A life is a series of moments. If those moments are filled with anxiety and tension, then where is the fun, the joy and the excitement of being alive?
photo credit: dno1967
What is the point in life if it is not enjoyed?
Life is to be lived and not endured. And everyone regardless of color, creed, nationality, belief or any other factor deserves to live their life. Regardless of the situation you were born into or that you now find yourself in, you have the ability and the right to thrive. Stress is the factor which prevents us from thriving and so this is the real cost of stress.
Stress Stops You From Being You
Life is an exciting adventure when we follow our passions and We thrive when we find out who we are and live as that being. Stress prevents us from being that person because we’re so comsumed with fixing problems we do not have the time, energy or cognitive resources to find ourselves.
And what is the point of living, when we do not know who we are?
Yet it can be so very different, if we just learn to deal with stress.
Advanced Stress Management Guide Contents
What Is Stress?
What Are The Costs of Stress?
What Are The Effects of Stress?
What Are The Causes of Stress?
How Do People Generally Cope With Stress?
The Mindset Shift: It’s Ok To Be Stressed, But Get Over It Quickly
The Secret To Emotional Stress Management
Reduce Stress And Avoid The Stress Tax
How To Deal With Stress
The Way To Relieve Stress
The Law Of Fairness
Pyrrhic Victory And The Value Of Losing