Stress, Mental Health, Insomnia, Inflammation and Illness
Most of us experience stress at some point in our lives, however, long term, or chronic, stress, is an increasing problem in the Western world. A recent UK survey found that 74% of adults (81% of women, and 67% of men) said that in the past year, they had been overwhelmed or unable to cope due to stress (1). In 2016/17 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK alone (2).
Stress and physical health
Stress is the common risk factor in 75-90% of diseases (3) and there is a well established link between stress and anxiety, insomnia and mental illness and also Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Long term or repeated bouts of stress have an impact on the immune system, raising the risk of infection. Stress can also lead an increased risk of diabetes due the change in insulin uptake, high blood pressure and heart disease due to plaque build-up in the arteries, the development of cancer, IBS and other digestive disorders due to alteration of acid levels in the stomach (4). Stress can also reduce the likelihood of conceiving when trying to get pregnant- possibly by as much as 30% (5). Research is beginning to show that inflammation may contribute to many diseases. Stress causes inflammation (6).
Complementary / Holistic therapies such as Aromatherapy, Massage and Reflexology, can be useful in the management of stress. This has historically been seen as a rather minor achievement when comparing holistic therapies to Medical healthcare. However, in the light of recent findings regarding the link between stress, mental health, inflammation and disease, Complementary Therapies are finally being given greater respect, with more research being done in this area.
Whilst studying for my degree in Complementary Healthcare, I conducted my graduate placement at a residential emergency mental health support facility, working with clients experiencing a range of severe mental health issues, using Massage, Reflexology and Aromatherapy to help reduce stress and anxiety. My research project was a pilot study using aromatherapy massage to treat long term primary insomnia.
1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some form of mental health issue this year. If you are one of those people, it is important to get help with your first step being your GP. Opening up to close family or friends is also recommended. The mental health charity - MIND are a good resource https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/