Do you really need conclusive evidence that stress kills?

The surprising link between cancer and stress

Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, there is no evidence that stress causes cancer. As we learned in a previous post, stress leads to many unhealthy conditions that can kill. That is what they mean when they say that stress kills. We are smart enough to create a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus, but we still do not have a cure for cancer. Or AIDS, for that matter.

While many ongoing studies link stress to cancer, none of them prove it. Does this mean you should go on stressing out and mismanaging stress? Of course not! Stress kills, remember? As healthy nuts, we err on the side of caution and assume that stress underlies cancer. Especially because it underlies many other common health conditions. That said, let’s learn a bit more about the types of stress and their negative impact on health.

What are the two types of stress?

There are two types of stress:

  • Short-term stress, such as the kind you experience while driving around Nassau

  • Chronic stress

The latter stems from an event(s) that last for weeks with no end in sight. An example of an event with no end in sight is the current global pandemic. Although many manage it well, most people are under insurmountable stress! While stressed, your body goes into survival mode, prompting it to fight or flight. In this state, it does what it needs to help your body survive whatever it feels is attacking you.

When you experience stress, these things happen in your brain:

  1. The brain suspends certain regions temporarily. Other regions become more active and form alliances. Noradrenaline is the driving force behind this organization (Medical Xpress).

  2. Fear at an intense level. That causes our senses to sharpen and our minds to create lasting memories.

  3. Stress impairs our brain's capacity to deliberate. That is intentional as our brain is only concerned with us surviving the attack.

Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, and noradrenaline play pivotal roles in your physiological responses to stress. When you understand these two hormones, you may develop healthier stress responses. You will also know if you are doing something out of a stress impulse or because you want to do it.

Now that you understand a bit more about what happens with the brain when you are under stress, let’s consider:

3 signs that you are in survival mode

  1. Exhaustion: you feel fatigued. This fatigue seems almost incurable even with a full night of undisturbed sleep.

  2. Grumpiness or moodiness: you become reactive to everything and everyone around you. That includes things and people that do not usually upset you.

  3. You stop caring: saying often that you do not care about this or that could be a sign of stress. Also, if you feel like “meh” about life on a more than constant basis, this is a sure sign that you are in survival mode.

So, what does any of this have to do with cancer? Everything! When you are suffering from acute or chronic stress, your body experiences:

  • A weakened immune system

  • Increased risk of digestive problems

  • Depression

  • Weight gain

  • Relationship issues

Consider everything that you know about cancer and what you now know about stress. Do you think chronic stress would be healthy for someone predisposed to cancer? Although the research is inconclusive, it is better to be safe and healthy than sorry and sad.

Stress kills. It is neither fun nor worth the amount of pain it can cause in the long-term. Forget the research and take every small step that you can to live a life that is low-stress and healthy!

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