You and Stress: A Bad News/Good News Story


stressToxic stress can leave a lifelong imprint on the brain and the body, undermining health and contributing to diabetes, depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even dementia. And it’s almost epidemic in today’s workplace – as much in small businesses as in large corporations.

Consider the following from a recent report by The American Institute of Stress (AIS): “40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful … and 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.” As well, says AIS, “Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems.”

Finally, job stress costs the industry more than $300 billion annually.

Factors contributing to toxic stress include job demands, lack of sleep and exercise, and poor lifestyle habits, such as smoking, overeating, and overworking.

Of course, a certain amount of stress is tolerable, even necessary. And stress affects people differently depending on their life experiences, genetic makeup, and other factors. Regardless, overwhelming stress can have a devastating effect on us all. Here’s why:

To maintain a physiological steady state (known as homeostasis), the body secretes hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin. These help us adapt, but in conditions of toxic stress, hormones can become unbalanced and ultimately alter brain structure and function.

There is an upside, however: we can develop resilience and reduce the impact of toxic stress through lifestyle changes and regular physical activity.

Indeed, physical activity is probably the best way to maintain brain and body health; working out regularly has been shown to help the brain regenerate areas damaged or destabilized by toxic stress.

So step away from the laptop and hit the gym. It’s good for your stress.