Stress: The silent killer.

Stress isn’t just sitting in traffic or being late for a meeting. It’s not rushing towards a deadline for a paper or preparing for an audit; It’s so much more than that.

April isn’t only known as stress awareness month, but it also houses World Health Day (Monday 6th). Stress has arguably some of the deadliest effects on the human body, causing numerous mental and physical issues. Keep reading to learn more.

Stress is everywhere. It can be found in many different forms, shapes, and sizes, and impacts people in varying ways. Some are fully capable and even experts in dealing with the effects of stress. Others aren’t. However, it’s not for a lack of resilience. Rather, it’s the scale of the physical and mental strain placed on us by chronic stress that alters our ability to cope.

Stress isn’t just sitting in traffic or being late for a meeting. It’s not rushing towards a deadline for a paper or preparing for an audit; It’s so much more than that.


Stress: The Facts.

According toMentalhealth.org.uk in 2018;

  • 74% of people reported feeling so stressed that they were unable to cope or felt overwhelmed.
  • 46% reported overeating or eating in an unhealthy way to combat their stress.
  • 29% reported an increase in their drinking, while 16% took up or increased their smoking habits.
  • As a result of feeling chronically stressed 51% reported strong feelings of depression, 61% reported anxiety, 16% reported self-harming to cope and 32% reported thoughts of suicide.

Note; These are only some of the negative impacts of stress. Others include physical ailments such as fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, stomach problems and issues with fertility.


The Connection with Cancer;

Chronic stress has stolen not only my ability to function, but it’s also severely impacted those within my family circle. It’s caused both mental and physical health complications, some of which eventually led to the diagnosis of cancer. Yes, you read that correctly; Chronic stress causes cancer. I’m 99.9% sure of it.

I firmly believe that the cancer responsible for taking my grandfather’s life was the result of ongoing, chronic stress. Depression was expected, the cancer wasn’t.

It started with OG cancer in March 2018 and ended with a swift diagnosis of bowel cancer in April 2019. He’d completed chemotherapy, gone through a life-altering operation, and appeared to be on the mend. Sadly, just seven short months after his surgery, the cancer was back and more aggressive than ever before. There was no hope this time around and the word ‘terminal’ still creates a hollow space in my stomach.


Why am I so certain that stress is the cause?

Stress causes significant changes to our bodily functions, specifically that of our stomachs. I’ve suffered first hand the impact it can have on our digestive systems, as have many of my friends and family. Between stomach ulcers, severe bowel complications such as IBS and IBD, and acid reflux, we’ve all had something.

The stomach is considered the second brain which means that if you’re suffering mentally, you’re more than likely suffering physically. And the worst thing? One impacts the other, creating a vicious circle. Constant trauma within such a sensitive area of our bodies can create internal sores, fissures, etc which can later develop into cancerous tumors. For example, chronic constipation can lead to the development of hemorrhoids or polyps. If issues persist these sores can promote the growth of abnormal cells which can eventually become cancerous.

I should mention I’m neither a doctor nor a nurse, but I’ve personally suffered at the hands of chronic bowel issues. I had become so sick that I relied on laxatives and enemas to get a small snippet of relief. The doctors couldn’t figure it out, often telling me ‘this was something I’d have to get used to.’ Imagine being told that you have to live in constant pain and fear, relying on dangerous medication and feeling embarrassed, for the rest of your life.

I wasn’t taking that for an answer, especially not after it triggered the return of a life-threatening eating disorder. Subsequently, I started researching in a bid to fix myself but, ultimately, it took removing myself fully from the stress to finally get relief.


What about the other effects of stress?

Stress certainly creates physical change that can contribute to the onset of cancer if persisting long enough, but it also acts as a catalyst for many harmful coping behaviours.

Traditionally, people smoked because it was the ‘done’ thing. It was cool to light up a cigarette. However now, with rising prices and potentially life-threatening health concerns, smoking isn’t considered ‘cool’ anymore. Yet, each day thousands still take pleasure in sparking that first smoke, many claiming it helps alleviate stress. In reality smoking actually increases stress levels in the body and it’s our psychosomatic response that leads us to believe the opposite. Not only does it increase cortisol levels, but it also significantly increases our chances of developing cancer.

Drinking isn’t far behind. Who here hasn’t had a few after a long day, or thought about how much they would love a drink after a stressful period at university? We’re all guilty of it, yet alcohol consumption can easily get out of hand if not kept in check. I know of those in my personal life who opt for a drink at the end of each evening in order to alleviate stress and even induce sleep. Let’s not forget that chronic alcoholism leads to many forms of cancer such as liver, stomach, bowel, etc.

Although smoking and drinking is what causes cancer, it can be traced back to the impacts of stress. This, in my opinion, leaves stress as the primary cause of these secondary issues.

It should be noted that these are only two harmful behaviours for ‘reducing’ stress.

Conclusion:

Whether this is fact or fiction is still under investigation. There are numerous studies and reports along the lines of ‘Stress Causes Cancer’ but none, in particular, are set in stone.

My opinion on this issue isn’t exactly a secret and I’m willing to tell anyone who will listen. I’ve had many discussions with my mother and, on one occasion, that of a stranger, both of whom agree with me.

I’m not saying I know all the answers and I’m certainly not telling you to panic at the first signs of stress. I’m telling you to keep an eye on symptoms, practice self-care, participate in downtime, look after your body and stop glamorising being busy. It’s good to be busy, but we can’t keep it up indefinitely. Our bodies and minds need time to repair, otherwise we’re lowering our immune systems and leaving ourselves open to disease far beyond our control. 

Originally posted on the Need To Live site.

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79 comments

  1. Stress is truly very harmful for everyone…completely do agree with every of your idea..Thanks for sharing this..this is great post and ideas and all of the information…

  2. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, pet. I’ve been struggling to manage mine too, but I find taking some time away from social media really helps! x

  3. This is such a great article and it’s so scary to think of the horrible things stress can do to us. I relate in that I’ve experienced so many stomach issues as a result of stress, and the vicious cycle of it is just horrendous. It’s so important to manage your stress properly – something I’ve been struggling with of late but I’ve definitely been finding that my daily pilates workouts help. Thanks for sharing xx

  4. Stress definitely affects more areas of our lives than people realise. Most ailments that are seen to be ‘just in your head’ have very real physical symptoms and it’s unfortunate that a lot of doctors don’t even recognise that.

  5. Managing stress, especially now that we’re all dealing with COVID, is a real and persistent struggle. I myself am trying hard to keep my spirits up and my stress down, but it’s not easy, and can lead to all sorts of physical symptoms and sickness. Great post!

  6. This is so true it doesnt help high blood pressure and that is no good! this is why i always tell my husband to talk and that he doesnt need to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.

  7. Stress is indeed a silent killer. But we can manage stress or find ways not to have them. It is in our control.

  8. Once I was feeling stressed my aunt told me the saying “whatever the mind is thinking and the heart is feeling, the body will follow” as a reminder for me to keep calm as stress greatly impacts our overall health. I hope you keep safe and healthy in these trying times xx

  9. Stress truly is the silent killer. I have definitely felt the effects of stress quite badly in the past and I am working to try to remove stress from my life.

  10. I found myself very stress last week but had to do some things to regroup and I feel much better.

  11. Stress is so bad for our health, yet knowing that causes more stress…ha! When I begin to feel myself stressing I remind myself that everything in life is temporary and even this stressful time will pass!

  12. Stress is definitely a factor into physical and mental health issues. You have great insight and back it up with facts. Love it. It is important to be mindful with our stress levels. Great article!!!!

  13. I’ve heard of so many people having strokes, heart attacks etc due to stress. Like I said in the post stress goes far beyond mental health.
    Thank you so much for reading. x

  14. I think all of us have issues not getting stressed. It’s learning to recognise it and mange it.
    Thank you so much for reading.

  15. I used to get headaches all the time. One was so bad it grew into a migraine which ended with me in hospital on oxygen. It was so horrible and the worst thing is that was just the beginning of my problems.

  16. I’m the same. I know how to manage stress but putting it into practice can be difficult.
    I’ve learned that I need to be easier on myself and recognise when I’m getting to a ‘burn out level.’ My main issues are recognising and acting before it’s too late.
    Sending lots of love. Thank you so much for reading.
    x

  17. I tend to overeat when stress gets the best of me. I found what works best is for me to go into my bedroom and watch TV or read for awhile to get my mind off things.

  18. Stress is so scary. I struggle really badly with it… Even though i know it’s manageable, i still end up spiraling further into it. A have an incredibly hard time relaxing.
    When i make sure to balance good eating, enough sleep, exercise, quiet time or meditation, productivity, and quality time with other people– all together in the same day, it becomes easier to manage and i feel more happy and relaxed. But it’s still so hard…and it’s easy to get even more stressed about managing to have a good day, even though i’m trying to do all those things for the sake of stress relief. It truly is crazy how cyclical it can be.
    I figure there’s something deeper going on in my head to make it as hard as it is…i just haven’t been able to find exactly what it is yet.

  19. You are right. My husband had a co-worker who was under so much stress at work and at home. He worked out like we all should, but the stress caused him to have a fatal heart attack. There are of course plenty of things to worry about, but not at the expense of our health. Thank you for this.

  20. I think we’re moving towards finding out how bad it is and how it needs to be reduced, especially in the workplace. But far more needs done!
    Thank you so much for reading. x

  21. Thank you for reading. I love meditation [when i can manage to shut my mind off] and a mild exercise like walking or yoga really helps untangle my mind.

  22. Stress is not a good thing at all. I try not to stress, even though sometimes one can’t help it.

  23. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m doing fine – very bored inside but also thankful to have a roof over my head! x

  24. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. It’s rather ironic that it’s stress awareness month and more than likely we’re all more stressed than ever!

  25. Say again for the people in the back!!!

    I’ll tell anyone who will listen about the negative impacts of stress and how they can take their pushy, ‘no boundaries’ ideas and shove them.

  26. Thank you for commenting. We’re all feeling stressed at the moment, no doubt. We can get through this!
    Sending you much love.

  27. I have that moment in my life when I’m really stressed. I hope it will pass soon because I have already problem with sleeping and eating

  28. Stress does lead to illness. Totally important to take care of your mental health!

  29. This is SO important. We live in a fast-paced society that pushes us to always do more, be more, achieve more… the level of stress that this puts on the average person is incredible. For some reason, this is considered ‘normal’ and accepted without actually discussing the impact that this can have on our health! Thank you for bringing this conversation to light.

  30. I meditate everyday . This has helped me reduce my stress a lot . During these difficult times , it is necessary to bring your mind and worry under control otherwise covid-19 will not be the only killer!

  31. We need to realise that stress needs to be acknowledged and handled . A lot of us just carry on and ignor the situation until things get out of hand .It is so important to self care .

  32. I get headaches and stomach aches from stress. It is good that you talked about how stress can cause problems and that we are not alone with how stress can effect us. Hope you stay healthy and well. xx

  33. It is crazy to me that April is Stress Awareness month and we are stuck at home. Luckily, the weather has been nice so we can get outside and get some fresh air. This is such an eye opening article about dealing with the stresses of daily life.

  34. Stress really does have negative impacts on both the mind and body. It’s so vital to take care of ourselves and take time out when we feel the stress building up. Thank you for sharing this important reminder, especially now as the world is full of so much worry and anxiety. Hope you are doing okay <3 xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

  35. I do believe stress is a silent killer too I see how it affects my dad and his cancer. It greatly affects our immune system, esp those of us with compromised immune systems.

  36. How very appropriate that April is Stress Awareness Month when this April could be one of the most stressful months many people live through. It’s so important to find those coping techniques. I’m happy to say that I don’t get stressed very often xxx

  37. The stress is around the globe so, this real time article. I fully agree with you that the stress leads to many diseases. I also listen that stress is the cause of SUGAR.

  38. Stress can affect us in ways we cannot begin to fathom. Stress can increase an already underlying condition, send a preexisting disease into a flare…One needs to be very careful

  39. Great post Nxyie, it’s incredibly sad how much stress effects people negatively. When I worked nightshift in health care there was a lot of talk about drinking on off days. I think stressors in general is increasing and in turn people’s ability to cope is lessening.

  40. I have heard a lot about the connection between stress and health. I have always been a worrier and I just try to balance it out with some relaxation.

  41. I think your blog title sums it up – stress is the silent killer! Great job on tackling this subject and reminding us to create healthy habits to help cut down our stress.

  42. Stress has been a huge problem for me for most of my life. It takes constant effort to keep it under control. Maybe someday my life will settle enough for that to no longer be an issue.

  43. Stress really is so unhealthy yet many of us live with it every day. Unfortunately, I am a stress eater so the outcome is not always a good one!

  44. I can see stress causing illness. I need to take more deep breaths to stay unstressed

  45. I agree stress leads to illness in many. Staying happy in these days and times makes it hard to complete life without stress

  46. Stress is related to so many illnesses and also mood changes. I have to admit that I have been very stressed lately and I am looking for ways to be calmer and gain my patience back.

  47. Ugh yes, I have been stressed lately. I have been working on calming methods though. I find taking breaks helps me a ton. And reading!

  48. So glad that I came across your article. Will consciously manage and choose my stressors from now on.

  49. I have stress induced migraines that knock me out for at least a day so I know how stress can do damage! I learnt stress management due to that but it can be very hard sometimes!

  50. Stress caused by work, family or world events is causing havoc to our health. There are coping skills we need to practice because stress is unavoidable. How to handle stress is what we can control or manage.

  51. Stress management is really important. I also read that Covid-19 causes a lot of stress to people. That’s why we as bloggers can use this platform to suggest ways to help them cope with stress. I love how you emphasize that our body needs time to repair. We really need it.

  52. Stress is so bad for our health…I agree that it can lead to other diseases. I really hope that we get better at recognizing how dangerous it is and de-stigmatize it so that people can get help before it is too late.

  53. I really struggle with managing my stress. I feel a lot of the world around me, so sometimes it can be hard. I find that meditation and exercise really help me to deal though.

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