Prayer For Stress Over Health
Stress, the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, can be defined as the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable.
What is stress?
At the most basic level, stress is our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event.
What contributes to stress can vary hugely from person to person and differs according to our social and economic circumstances, the environment we live in and our genetic makeup.
Some common features of things that can make us feel stress include experiencing something new or unexpected, something that threatens your feeling of self, or feeling you have little control over a situation.1When we encounter stress, our body is stimulated to produce stress hormones that trigger a ‘flight or fight’ response and activate our immune system 2. This response helps us to respond quickly to dangerous situations.
Sometimes, this stress response can be an appropriate, or even beneficial reaction.
The resulting feeling of ‘pressure’ can help us to push through situations that can be nerve-wracking or intense, running a marathon, or giving a speech to a large crowd.
We can quickly return to a resting state without any negative effects on our health if what is stressing us is short-lived 3, and many people are able to deal with a certain level of stress without any lasting effects.
However, there can be times when stress becomes excessive and too much to deal with. If our stress response is activated repeatedly, or it persists over time, the effects can result in wear and tear on the body and can cause us to feel permanently in a state of ‘fight or flight’ . Rather than helping us push through, this pressure can make us feel overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Feeling this overwhelming stress for a long period of time is often called chronic, or long-term stress, and it can impact on both physical and mental health.
Stress is a response to a threat in a situation, whereas anxiety is a reaction to the stress.
What makes us stressed?
There are many things that can lead to stress. The death of a loved one, divorce/separation, losing a job and unexpected money problems are among the top ten causes of stress according to one recent survey 5. But not all life events are negative and even positive life changes, such as moving to a bigger house, gaining a job promotion or going on holiday can be sources of stress.
When you are stressed you may experience many different feelings, including anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, or frustration. These feelings can sometimes feed on each other and produce physical symptoms, making you feel even worse. For some people, stressful life events can contribute to symptoms of depression.6 7
Work-related stress can also have negative impacts on mental health 8. Work-related stress accounts for an average of 23.9 days of work lost for every person affected 9.
When you are stressed you may behave differently. For example, you may become withdrawn, indecisive or inflexible. You may not be able to sleep properly 10. You may be irritable or tearful.
There may be a change in your sexual habits 11.Some people may resort to smoking, consuming more alcohol, or taking drugs 12. Stress can make you feel angrier or more aggressive than normal 13.
Stress may also affect the way we interact with our close family and friends.
When stressed, some people start to experience headaches, nausea and indigestion. You may breathe more quickly, perspire more, have palpitations or suffer from various aches and pains.
You will quickly return to normal without any negative effects if what is stressing you is short-lived, and many people are able to deal with a certain level of stress without any lasting adverse effects.If you experience stress repeatedly over a prolonged period, you may notice your sleep and memory are affected, your eating habits may change, or you may feel less inclined to exercise.
Some research has also linked long-term stress to gastrointestinal conditions Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or stomach ulcers14 as well as conditions cardiovascular disease15.
Who is affected by stress?
All of us can probably recognise at least some of the feelings described above and may have felt stressed and overwhelmed at some time or another. Some people seem to be more affected by stress than others. For some people, getting the door on time each morning can be a very stressful experience. Whereas others may be able to cope with a great deal of pressure.
Some groups of people may be more ly to experience stressful life events and situations than others.
For example, people living with high levels of debt, or financial insecurity are more ly to experience stress related to money16, 17, people from minority ethnic groups or whose who are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) may be more ly to experience stress due to prejudice, or discrimination18,19,20, and people with pre-existing or ongoing health problems may be more ly to experience stress related to their health, or stress due to stigma associated with their condition.
How can you help yourself?
There are some actions that you can take as an individual to manage the immediate, sometimes unpleasant, signs of stress and identify, reduce, and remove stressful factors that may cause you to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. If you feel comfortable, talking to a friend or close colleague at work about your feelings can help you manage your stress.
However, sometimes individual actions on their own are not enough to reduce long-term stress for everyone. We can often be affected by factors that are beyond our direct control. Communities, workplaces, societies, and governments all have a role to play in tackling these wider causes of stress.
1. Realise when it is causing a problem and identify the causes
An important step in tackling stress is to realise when it is a problem for you and make a connection between the physical and emotional signs you are experiencing and the pressures you are faced with. It is important not to ignore physical warning signs such as tense muscles, feeling over-tired, and experiencing headaches or migraines.
Once you have recognised you are experiencing stress, try to identify the underlying causes. Sort the possible reasons for your stress into those with a practical solution, those that will get better anyway given time, and those you can't do anything about. Take control by taking small steps towards the things you can improve.
Think about a plan to address the things that you can. This might involve setting yourself realistic expectations and prioritising essential commitments. If you feel overwhelmed, ask people to help with the tasks you have to do and say no to things that you cannot take on.
2. Review your lifestyle
Are you taking on too much? Are there things you are doing which could be handed over to someone else? Can you do things in a more leisurely way? You may need to prioritise things you are trying to achieve and reorganise your life so that you are not trying to do everything at once.
3. Build supportive relationships
Finding close friends or family who can offer help and practical advice can support you in managing stress. Joining a club, enrolling on a course, or volunteering can all be good ways of expanding your social networks and encourage you to do something different. Equally, activities volunteering can change your perspective and helping others can have a beneficial impact on your mood.
4. Eat Healthily
A healthy diet will reduce the risk of diet-related diseases. There is also a growing amount of evidence showing how food can affect our mood. Feelings of wellbeing can be protected by ensuring our diet provides adequate amounts of nutrients including essential vitamins and minerals, as well as water.
5. Be aware of your smoking and drinking
If possible, try to cut right down on smoking and drinking. They may seem to reduce tension, but in fact they can make problems worse. Alcohol and caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety.
Physical exercise can be an excellent initial approach to managing the effects of stress. Walking, and other physical activities can provide a natural ‘mood boost’ through the production of endorphins. Even a little bit of physical activity can make a difference, for example, walking for 15-20 minutes three times a week is a great start.21
7. Take Time Out
One of the ways you can reduce stress is by taking time to relax and practicing self-care, where you do positive things for yourself. Striking a balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself is vital in reducing stress levels.
8. Be Mindful
Mindfulness meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time. Research has suggested it can be helpful for managing and reducing the effect of stress, anxiety, and other related problems in some people22. Our ‘Be Mindful’ website features a specifically-developed online course in mindfulness, and details of local courses in your area.
9. Get some restful sleep
Sleep problems are common when you’re experiencing stress. If you are having difficulty sleeping, you can try to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume23 and avoid too much screen time before bed24.
Writing down your to do list for the next day can be useful in helping you prioritise but also put the plans aside before bed25. For more tips on getting a good night’s sleep read our guide ‘How to sleep better’.
10. Don't be too hard on yourself
Try to keep things in perspective and don't be too hard on yourself. Look for things in your life that are positive and write down things that make you feel grateful.
If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, seeking professional help can support you in managing effectively.
Do not be afraid to seek professional help if you feel that you are no longer able to manage things on your own. Many people feel reluctant to seek help as they feel that it is an admission of failure.
This is not the case and it is important to get help as soon as possible so you can begin to feel better.
The first person to approach is your family doctor. He or she should be able to advise about treatment and may refer you to another local professional.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be helpful in reducing stress by changing the ways we think about stressful situations26, this might include focusing on more positive aspects of a situation and reassessing what their ly impact might be.
Other psychosocial interventions that can be helpful include brief interpersonal counselling, which can give people the opportunity to discuss what causes them to feel stress and develop coping strategies; and mindfulness-based approaches27.
Prayer and Health Outcomes
Christian reality TV star Jessa Duggar Seewald recently shared three videos by Baptist pastor John Piper, one of which calls anxiety a sin.
Several Instagram commenters and at least one blogger were not happy with the implication that people could “pray the anxiety away.”
For many people, prayer is an integral part of their faith. And there’s research showing that prayer has some health benefits.
But experts say substituting prayer for medical treatment, especially with serious conditions such as anxiety and depression, can lead to years of struggling and more serious complications, including death.
Can prayer help others heal?
A number of studies have looked at the effects of religion or prayer on health — with some showing positive benefits.
One study, published last year in PLoS One, found that people who attended church more than once per week were 55 percent less ly to die during the 18-year follow-up period than people who didn’t frequent church.
A 2016 study from JAMA Internal Medicine also showed that women who attended church services more than once per week were 33 percent less ly to die during the 16 years of follow-up than non-churchgoers.These studies, though, don’t show whether it is religion that is giving the health boost or some other factor, such as social support.
Solo prayer is harder for researchers to measure than church attendance for a couple reasons. For one, “How often do you go to church?” is an easy question for people to answer. And two, different people may have different ways of praying.
Also, people tend to turn to prayer when things are going badly — such as when they are sick, lose a loved one, or are fired from a job.
“A lot of times prayer becomes a marker for distress or even greater physical illness, because it’s during those times that people turn to prayer for comfort,” said Dr. Harold Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University, and author of “Religion and Mental Health: Research and Clinical Applications.”
Studies done at one point in time in a person’s life — cross-sectional studies — may include only people who are struggling.
Overall, research on the benefits of praying for others, known as intercessory prayer, has been mixed.
One review of past studies found that praying for someone else has small health benefits for the person being prayed for. Another showed no effect at all.
And one study suggests that prayer may make things worse. This study, published in 2006 in the American Heart Journal, found that people who knew that someone else was praying for their recovery from heart surgery had higher rates of complications than people who weren’t being prayed for.
Praying may boost mental health
Praying for others might not help them that much, but several studies have found benefits for the person doing the prayer — whether they are praying for someone else or themselves.
This may stem from the effect that the act of praying has on a person’s mental well-being.
“The compassion that people display toward others when they pray for them is something that is good for the person doing the praying,” Koenig told Healthline.
Prayer may also have similar effects on mental well-being as meditation and yoga, which spill over into physical effects.
“Any benefit to mental well-being, which I think prayer has, is going to translate into benefits for physical well-being over time,” said Koenig.He is quick to point out, though, that he’s not talking about prayer “miraculously curing someone.” Instead, prayer can improve a person’s mental health, such as reducing anxiety and stress.
In turn, this can translate into “better physiological functioning,” such as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure, and improved immune functioning.
A 2009 study by Koenig and colleagues found that six weekly in-person Christian prayer sessions with patients at a primary care office lowered their depression and anxiety symptoms and increased their optimism.
The prayer was led by a lay minister, but the patients sometimes joined them in praying. So it’s uncertain if the effects are the result of being prayed for or the act of praying.
Other studies have found that prayer decreased symptoms of pain after a C-section and improved the quality of life in women undergoing radiation therapy.
Prayer instead of treatment
Koenig said there’s a particular need for studies that follow people over decades to “see if those who regularly spend time in prayer end up experiencing better mental and physical health over time.”
Does this mean you can ditch your doctor or psychologist and pray instead?
“Absolutely not,” said Koenig.
Serious mental and physical problems are not things to mess around with.
Left untreated, anxiety disorder can lead to physical problems and an increased risk of suicide and depression. Depression is linked to physical illnesses, social isolation, and premature death.
Other untreated illnesses can also lead to death or other serious complications.
A study last year in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that people who chose only alternative medicine therapies for their cancer were 2.5 times more ly to die than those who used conventional cancer treatments.This study didn’t look at prayer specifically, but it does show the risks of avoiding medical care.
Even though prayer may not “miraculously” cure you, there may still be a place for it alongside traditional treatments.
“The combination of getting the best medical care and having a strong religious faith and prayer can lead to better mental and physical health,” said Koenig.
Stress and Health
The relationship between emotions, stress and health it is so clear that it is one of the few health keys experts agree on.
The link is so strong that researchers estimate that stress related illnesses account for upwards of 80% of non-genetic health problems. If you expand your view of stress to include the burden of chemical toxins, unhealthy lifestyles and fake foods on our minds and bodies, in addition to mental distress, the number gets pretty close to 100%.
Chronic, or long-term stress of any kind, not only contributes to your risk of contracting a disease, it can speed the progression of illnesses you already have and make them worse.
Mental, physical, and environmental stress factors play a role in cancer, heart disease, depression, anxiety, AIDS, aging and auto-immune disease. By depressing the immune system, chronic distress increases the lihood of contracting a viral or bacterial infection.
When people use the word 'stress' they are usually referring to mental or emotional stress. We would do better health wise if we become more aware of all types of stress and take steps to minimize those that pose very real health threats.
Environmental and Chemical Stress
You ly live in an environment full of electro-magnetic fields. There are thousands of chemicals making their way into your body through your food, water and air supply. It is inescapable. You may have a mouth full of mercury fillings releasing vapors every time you brush, bite down and eat. This out gassing goes on for years and years.
Having to deal with these pollutants puts a demand on organs of elimination and cells that have to function in a less than optimal environment. What is especially damaging is that these health harmers may go unnoticed in the body until the damage is done.
Emotions Stress and Health
You have probably noticed that after a long stint of worrying or overwork, you come down with a cold or flu. You may also have noticed that it sometimes takes months for your energy level to get back to normal.
Dr. Hamer, developer of the German New Medicine, noted that the connection between mental stress and health is so strong that he could trace every cancer case he studied, including his own, to an emotional trauma that occurred up to three years before the diagnosis.
The relationship between emotions, stress and health is evident in animals as well as people. It is so common for animals and fish fed kept in cramped quarters to become ill that they often spend their lives on antibiotics.
Physical Stress Factors
Physically demanding exercise can also be taxing, even if you enjoy the activity. A moderate amount of physical stress is beneficial. It tones the cardiovascular system and the muscles. Too much exertion depletes your energy, strains your system, and may promote illness. Research shows that long distance running scars to the heart.
A while back I met a woman who gave up teaching aerobics even though she enjoyed it because she always felt tired and unwell. She began thriving when she switched to yoga. For her, aerobics was too physically stressful. Other people thrive on this kind of intense exercise.
Besides the chemicals in your food, eating lots of fake foods devoid of nutrients and full of sugar and trans-fats cause your body to cope by spiking insulin, using up nutrients and fighting free radical damage. That puts stress on your pancreas, digestive system and elimination system.
Stress and Health Series
In this series of articles relating to stress and health you will explore how stress affects you in mind and body.
- Learn what happens in your mind and body once a mental stress trigger is experienced and the stress response occurs.
- Read about the main causes of stress. It is no surprise that challenging situations and people can cause you to react. So can new positive experiences. Your body can also go into distress because of physical challenges, which of course affect your mind.
Many of the long-term health harming effects of stress on health are the result of chronically elevated levels of cortisol and diminished DHEA hormone. In the short term, your body can handle this natural response, but it is not designed to be triggered on a continual basis as is common in modern day living.
Over time, this strain can and often does cause physical and mental health conditions such as premature aging, anxiety, heart disease, obesity and more.
Understanding how stress affects your well-being is the first step to alleviating it. Reducing your levels of distress is one of the very best things you can do for your health.
You will see this advice echoed across this site – to get well and stay well you must do all you can to relax and protect yourself from all kinds of damaging stress.
Do everything possible to detox your life of mental and physical toxins, which are major sources of stress and health conditions of many kinds. Your health will thank you.
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How Is Stress Affecting My Health?
Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way you respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to your overall well-being.
Sometimes, the best way to manage your stress involves changing your situation. At other times, the best strategy involves changing the way you respond to the situation.
Developing a clear understanding of how stress impacts your physical and mental health is important. It's also important to recognize how your mental and physical health affects your stress level.
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin
Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. However, not all types of stress are harmful or even negative. Here are the different types of stress:
- Eustress: This type of stress is fun and exciting. It's known as a positive type of stress that can keep you energized. It's associated with surges of adrenaline, such as when you are skiing or racing to meet a deadline.
- Acute stress: A very short-term type of stress that can either be positive or more distressing. This is the type of stress we most often encounter in day-to-day life.
- Episodic acute stress: Acute stress that seems to run rampant and be a way of life, creating a life of relative chaos.
- Chronic stress: Stress that seems never-ending and inescapable, the stress of a bad marriage or an extremely taxing job. Chronic stress can also stem from traumatic experiences and childhood trauma.
During this reaction, certain hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released. This speeds the heart rate, slows digestion, shunts blood flow to major muscle groups, and changes various other autonomic nervous functions, giving the body a burst of energy and strength.
Originally named for its ability to enable us to physically fight or run away when faced with danger, it’s now activated in situations where neither response is appropriate— in traffic or during a stressful day at work.
When the perceived threat is gone, systems are designed to return to normal function via the relaxation response. But in cases of chronic stress, the relaxation responses doesn't occur often enough, and being in a near-constant state of fight-or-flight can cause damage to the body.Stress can also lead to some unhealthy habits that have a negative impact on your health. For example, many people cope with stress by eating too much or by smoking. These unhealthy habits damage the body and create bigger problems in the long-term.
The connection between your mind and body is apparent when you examine the impact stress has on your life. Feeling stressed out over a relationship, money, or your living situation can create physical health issues.
The inverse is also true. Health problems, whether you're dealing with high blood pressure or you have diabetes, will also affect your stress level and your mental health.
When your brain experiences high degrees of stress, your body reacts accordingly.
Serious acute stress, being involved in a natural disaster or getting into a verbal altercation, can trigger heart attacks, arrhythmias, and even sudden death. However, this happens mostly in individuals who already have heart disease.
Chronic stress can have a serious impact on your health as well. If you experience chronic stress your autonomic nervous system will be overactive, which is ly to damage your body.
The first symptoms are relatively mild, chronic headaches and increased susceptibility to colds. With more exposure to chronic stress, however, more serious health problems may develop. They include, but are not limited to:
- hair loss
- heart disease
- sexual dysfunction
- tooth and gum disease
Stress also takes an emotional toll. While some stress may produce feelings of mild anxiety or frustration, prolonged stress can lead to burnout, anxiety disorders, and depression.
Although stress is inevitable, it can be manageable. When you understand the toll it takes on you and the steps to combat stress, you can take charge of your health and reduce the impact stress has on your life.
The following articles in this journey will help you identify how stress affects you. It will also assist you in identifying the best stress reduction strategies that will work for you and it will assist in preventing burnout. Here's a glimpse of what you'll learn:
Recognize the Signs of Burnout
High levels of stress may place you at a high risk of burnout. Burnout can leave you feeling exhausted and apathetic about your job. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent and address burnout if you recognize the symptoms.
How Exercise Reduces Stress
Physical activity has a big impact on your brain and your body. Whether you enjoy Tai Chi or you want to begin jogging, exercise reduces stress and improves many symptoms associated with mental illness.
Effective Ways to Manage Stress
Although there's a lot of talk about the importance of managing stress, most people aren't exactly sure how to do it. It's important to have a toolbox filled with stress reduction tools that help you combat stress effectively.
Live a More Mindful Life
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