Posts made in September, 2013

Wednesday Bubble Recap: Today’s Stress, Tomorrow’s Disability

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013 in aging, stress | 0 comments

Steam escaping from new pressure cooker pot

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been gone from Flashfree for a week now. I was attempting to take a staycation. Unfortunately, that attempt fell short of expectations. Sure, I didn’t turn off like I promised myself that I would. However, when the train leaves the station without a schedule, sometimes you simply have to hop on. And hence, I found myself hopping on at odd stops other than finding a path of true avoidance. And it’s left me feeling one way: stressed.

I was hoping to hop back on the Flashfree wagon full steam today with some interesting novel twist on the ‘pause but rather, I decided to repost this piece from earlier in the year. It can be hard to shut life down at times but the ramifications are pretty clear.

I’m planning on taking a day or two to remind myself. What about you? What’s your stress quotient like? If it’s out of control like mine and you are finding yourself barely coping at times, it’s probably an excellent call to step back and just stop. At the end of the day, the long term effects are more important than the short term reasons for the stress.


Mental stress takes its toll in so many ways; from depression and mental exhaustion to memory issues, sleep disruption, and reduced quality of life, to heart disease, diabetes and possibly musculoskeletal disease, stress literally sucks the life out of an individual. What’s more, while stress may’ take no prisoners,’ but its effects are not uniform and actually vary from person to person. As I’ve written previously, factors such as active coping and attitude are as important as a lack of control over one’s work environment. However, what about long-term consequences? According to a recent paper published online in the Journal of Gerontology, little has been written about the long-term consequences of mental stress and its toll as we grow older. And, the few studies that have examined it have actually been relatively short.

Fortunately, that paradigm has changed, In fact, when researchers examined the association between self-perceived stress and its later toll in roughly 5,500 men and women, the picture they found was not pretty. Stress symptoms were first evaluated when participants were between the ages of 45 and 58 and then reexamined four years later. They included factors such as stomach or chest pain, dizziness, anxiety, lack of enjoyment, sleep issues, lack of energy and a gloomy outlook, which were rated by frequency. Twenty-eight years later, daily living scales were used to assess the degree of disability in the same individuals; these included the ability to feed oneself, to dress, to get out of bed, prepare meals, shop, do laundry or do housework.

As mentioned, stress was inconsistent among the participants; some were profiled as having mostly negative reactions to work and depressiveness while others perceived a decline in their ability to focus and think. Some participants primarily reported sleep disturbances or physical symptoms such as chest pain, stomach ache and dizziness. Only a third reported having no stress symptoms in midlife, whereas up to a quarter reported that their stress was constant. Most importantly, constant stress in midlife was linked to significant challenges in performing the most basic of activities later in life — up to four times worse. Even more troubling? Constant stress was a deal breaker when it came to physical activity; these people had up to three times greater risk for not being able to walk  a mere 1.2 miles!

Researchers say that it’s likely that “constant activation of stress responses lead to ‘wear and tear.” And while the health trajectory that leads from stress to disability is still unclear, what is clear is the need to intervene in midlife, take time to identify work stressors, change workloads and tasks, engage in regular physical activity and seek counseling if stress symptoms continue to interfere with life quality.

You only live in this body once; be sure to take care of it at all stages before lack of care takes a real toll.


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