The effects of sustained, long-term "Stress"As a brief recap of the first article “Stress, the Individual, Wellbeing, Performance and the Workplace (Part One)" the author covered:-
- The physiological and psychological changes that occur as part of the Human “Fight, Flight and Freeze” stress response.
- Discussed what a “stressors” is and how “perception” of stress plays a huge part in the human stress response.
- How the stress response instantaneously affects a wide variety of the systems throughout the body, both short and possibly longer term via the release of hormones.
- That one can divide the Central Nervous System into smaller parts or sub-systems.
- How the “Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)” is constantly running at a base-level, even while the “Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS)” is operating.
- The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is associated with the “Fight, Flight or Freeze” stress response.
- That the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) is associated with “Rest, Digest and or Feed and Breed” bodily functions.
- How the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) inhibits the functions of the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS), during the “fight, flight or freeze” stress response.
Stress is not all bad and can be goodStress is not all bad, and in fact, a degree of stress can be extremely positive and be performance enhancing. The human body is extremely good at adapting, be it to physiological or psychological loads. It would be fair to say that the principles relating to tissue adaption equally apply to “stress” and the ability for one to adapt. The “Basic Running Injury Preventive Measures” article goes into tissue adaption in more detail and covers Wolff’s Law (bone adaption) and Davis’s Law (soft tissue adaption). In essence, if one had little to no stress then one is likely to be either inactive or laid back, as there is no motivation to do anything. However, that said one's personality is another influencing factor. If one has some degree of stress or an optimum stress level, then one is more likely to have drive and focus, up to the point of fatigue. Performance, also improves with an optimum level of stress, before starting to decline after the fatigue point. If one were to go beyond fatigue inducing levels of stress and have too much stress then one can rapidly become exhausted. Too much stress and exhaustion are not sustainable and frequently lead to physical and psychological burn-out, which can include a complete breakdown, anger, anxiety or panic type behaviours. As with tissue adaption, one can view stress as a load/loading. The body needs time to adapt to a load and this depends on a number of variables or factors such as; genetics, general health, fitness, diet, perception of given stressors, number and types of stressors involved, perception of level of stress induced by stressor, duration of dealing with stressor, coping mechanisms and more.
Stress hormones and the effect on the PSNS often results in highly stressed people suffering from stomach or bowel problems, though there are many other causes. All bodily functions require and utilise various resources such as nutrients (vitamins, minerals and energy) to function and for maintenance/repair purposes. The continual stress cycle prevents tissues, which enable functions to operate correctly from being maintained. In essence, the demands on the body are the same or increased and yet there is a lack of resources and degraded equipment to meet those demands. It is purely a matter of time before something breaks, physically, physiological or both.
- Becoming withdrawn / less social
- Changes in Eating Habits (types of foods, quantities)
- Chest pain (get it checked to be safe).
- Easily getting sick (colds, flu etc.)
- Emotional changes (Irritability, Anger, Feeling Tearful, Panic)
- Loss of Libido
- Muscle Tension (including grinding teeth or clenching fists)
- Racing thoughts
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Unable to concentrate
Effects of stress on the Employee and Employers
- Reduced productivity.
- Increased sickness and absenteeism.
- Increased mistakes and errors.
- Increased labour turnover.
- Increased disciplinary and grievance incidents.
- Lower quality of customer service.
- Lower morale and a more negative company atmosphere.
- Increased internal conflicts.
- Unhappy workers tend to be less healthy in general.
Blood sugar levels increase as cortisol acts on the liver via gluconeogenesis, which enables protein stores to release glucose. The body carefully monitors blood glucose levels and releases insulin as and when needed. However, tissues within the body can in effect become immune to the impact of insulin over a prolonged period and due to constant high blood glucose levels. Furthermore, the production of insulin requires resources, which may be in shorter supply in a long-term stress response situation.
Stress can make people more or less hungry and crave certain foods or drinks. Furthermore, the speed at which food can pass through the body can change and be faster or slower. Increases, in certain types or quantities of food or drink, can result in changes to the balance of the Microbiome or Microbiota (bacteria fungi, archaea, bacteria, viruses) within the gut.
The “stress” response has a suppressing effect on the immune system, making one more susceptible to infection and disease.
Prolonged stimulation of the “stress” response, prevents other aspects of the Central Nervous System (CNS), its division and other systems from being maintained and repaired properly. The “Fight, Flight or Freeze” response can also have an impact on sleep and lead to Insomnia. Sleep has been shown to be a crucial part of the body's daily repair processes and associated with memory formation.
PsychologicalMental, Emotional, Social: (Depression, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Anger, Breakdown, Memory formation)
Health is multifaceted and "we" are not machines
|The interrelated aspects of Individual Health|
In many, respects there are similarities between long-term and prolonged stress and running any piece of machinery at absolute maximum capacity, with no breaks and little to no maintenance or repair. Inevitably, operating any piece machinery in such a manner is likely to cause a catastrophic and expensive failure at some point. However, most people would not run machinery in such a reckless manner. Usually, one would look to maximise the life and productivity of such a piece of machinery and thus return on investment, through a combination of risk management strategies, operations management and planned maintenance. One can apply similar principles to employees and Elite military, and top-level sports teams from around the world have been applying such ideas in the form of “human performance” to their people most effectively for several years.