Anxiety’s Relationship to Stress, Hypertension and Diabetes

Beginning with the idea of stress and how it triggers anxious feelings I thought I would relay the definition of Stress:

In psychologystress is a feeling of strain and pressure. Small amounts of stress may be desired, beneficial, and even healthy. Positive stress helps improve athletic performance. It also plays factor in motivation, adaptation, and reaction to the environment. Excessive amounts of stress, however, may lead to many problems in the body that could be harmful.

Stress can be external and related to the environment, but may also be created by internal perceptions that cause an individual to have anxiety or other negative emotions surrounding a situation, such as pressure, discomfort, etc., which they then deem stressful.

Humans experience stress, or perceive things as threatening, when they do not believe that their resources for coping with obstacles (stimuli, people, situations, etc.) are enough for what the circumstances demand. When we think the demands being placed on us exceed our ability to cope, we then perceive stress.

Stress triggers a cascade of chemicals to be released from your adrenal glands into your abdominal cavity and bloodstream which circulates all over your body and to your brain.  These chemicals, while highly toxic, are vital to self preservation and vital to you saving your life or someone else’s if needed.  But your anxiety actually triggers more perceived stress.  Thus begins the spiral effect of perceived stress triggering anxiety which triggers more stress which triggers more anxiety and so forth.  Instead of turning to drugs to master your body’s orchestra of events notice the key word is perceived here.  Since it is a perceptual problem to begin with then working in therapy to master your perceptions is where we need to go next.  However, learn more here about how it all works, over time, to wreak havoc on your health and then you’ll more fully understand why it’s time to get help as a preventive measure to insure a healthy life.

Effects of Stress on the Body:  Health problems arise when stress is constant.  Chronic anxiety or angst can create a catastrophic chain reaction in the body.  Here is how it unfolds:

  1. Autonomic Nervous System.  Faced with stress, the system signals the adrenal glands to dump an extra dose of stress hormones, primarily adrenaline and cortisol, into the loodstream.
  2. Blood Pressure.  The heart races and blood pressure rises.  Higher blood pressure puts people at increased risk of heart attack and strokes.
  3. Arteries.  The strain of blood flowing through constricted blood vessels injures the artery walls, making them more susceptible to blood clots and plaque buildup.
  4. Smooth Muscles.  The muscles of the intestine constrict, interfering with digestion.  This can lead to stomach problems.
  5. Hormones.  The hormones, particularly cortisol, slow metabolism, increasing the fat and cholesterol in the blood.  Slower metabolism means difficulty maintaining ideal body weight without increased exercise or reduced caloric intake.  Cortisol diverts energy from the immune system, leaving the body susceptible to diseases.

Tips On Stress Reduction and Self-Care

What You Can Do:

  1. Slow Down and Reduce the Tendency to Hurry Sickness.  Take each day as it comes, and do one thing at a time.  The body takes its own time to do things and forcing yourself to be active can create further weakness that will make healing take longer.
  2. Laugh.  If you can find humor in a problem the problem may be resolved or at least its power over you will be reduced for a little while.  Whenever you’re faced with something difficult, search for humor in it.  Laughter distances you from prolblems so that you can get needed perspective.
  3. Help Others.  Sometimes you simply have no energy and taking care of yourself is as much as you can do.  Other times, you may find that reaching out to help someone else can help you remember that there is a larger life going on than yours.  Helping others can give you a feeling of worth and meaning at a time when it may be hard to find any, and may help you get perspective on your own situation.
  4. Choose Your Friends and Surroundings Carefully.  Many people simply don’t understand how complex and far-reaching grief responses can be.  It is difficult to be in social situations when you feel that you have to “hold up” or “put on a good face.”  You may find that you will have to educate some friends and family about how to support you.  If someone is simply unable to be supportive, consider avoiding that person or situation while you are vulnerable.
  5. Give People a Break.  Other people have bad days too.  When someone is irritable or discourteous to you, remember that they too may be having difficulties in their life.  Every one of us has a day when we need people around us to be especially patient and tolerant.
  6. Monitor the self-talk that goes on in your head.  Negative things you tell yourself in your mind can create stress.  While we rightly spend a lot of time remembering our loved ones and all the changes in our lives as a result of their death, obsessive thoughts about things we can’t do anything about can lead us into feeling hopeless and despairing.  Grieving is not the same as obsessive worrying.  The next time your mind starts running away, take a deep breath and gently tell it to stop.
  7. Treat yourself right.  If you eat right, exercise, get enough sleep and make sure you get the kind of support you need from other people, you will be able to cope with just about anything that comes your way.  You’re least able to cope with life’s surprises when our body is tired and unfit.
  8. Use different words.  Instead of saying “I can’t,” trying saying “I choose not to.”  Instead of using words and phrases that make you feel powerless and bad about yourself, try to reframe the situation to include compassion for the difficult changes you are going through.  Renaming our feelings and reactions can relieve a lot of stress.
  9. Realize you have a choice about reacting with anger.  Remind yourself that other people and things don’t make you angry.  Only your mind can do that.  Anger is a common response to many aspects of death, i.e., the sense of powerlessness, the unfairness of the loss, the complications death causes ourlives, the sense of abandonment.  When something comes up, you may not be able to decide not to feel anger, but you can choose to react in either a stressful way or a calm way.  Your reaction patterns are partly responsible for your stress level.  Take a deep breath and count to ten before you let your anger express itself.  Look for productive ways to channel anger (for example: running, working out physically, working as a an activist to change harmful situations).


A Problem                              Not A Problem

        For Me                                      For Me

  1. Procrastination                    ________________                                   ___________


  1. Misplaced Items                  ________________                                   ___________


  1. Interruptions                         ________________                                   ___________


  1. Inability to Say ‘No’                 ________________                                   ___________


  1. Unrealistic Time Frames     ________________                                   ___________


  1. Perfectionism                       ________________                                   ___________


  1. Fatigue, Exhaustion                        ________________                                   ___________


  1. Lack of Stamina                   ________________                                   ___________


  1. Lack of Creativity                   ________________                                   ___________


  1. Inflexibiity                               ________________                                   ___________


  1. Poor Recall and Memory    ________________                                   ___________


  1. Lack of Social Time              ________________                                   ___________


  1. Inabiilty to Relax                    ________________                                   ___________


  1. Preference to “Do it Yourself” ______________                                   ___________


  1. Rushing/Skipping Meals   ________________                                   ___________


  1. Frequent Lateness               ________________                                   ___________


  1. Difficulty in Listening                        ________________                                   ___________


  1. Little or No Exercise             ________________                                   ___________


  1. Conflicting Demands          __________________                  ____________


  1. Lack of Rewards                 __________________                  ____________ 

SCORING:  Count the number of responses in the first column.  If you scored:

10 or more:  Stress in your life is reching dangerous levels!  Engage in an active stress reduction program now in order to avoid critical health problems.

5 to10:  You are dealing with a difficult and demanding lifestyle and stress is a bigger problem than you may think.  Learn how to change habits now to prevent an unmanageable situation from developing.

Less than 5:  You manage to keep your stress in check.  God for you!  You’re also a good example for others!


  1. Endocrine system maintains and controls the exquisitely complex function of the body. Six major glands: hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, and sex organs (testes and ovaries) which secrete hormones that act as a chemical messenger to regulate every aspect of metabolism. This includes growth and development; rebuild/restore functions; temperature regulation; energy metabolism; heart, lung, and kidney functions; and a host of feedback mechanisms keeping us in homeostasis (balance). It’s a closed loop system meaning that changes in one gland will affect the others to some degree. Adrenals are key because of range of hormones they produce.
  2. Adrenals have 3 zones that release hormones to handle stress: cortisone, adrenaline (epinephrine), and norepinephrine. Then there is a 4th zone that releases DHEA which releases hundreds of times greater levels of DHEA hormone than any other hormones. The outer part of the gland controls fluid and mineral balance in the body while the inner part produces a group of hormones known as glucocorticoids which help control glucose metabolism (energy).
  3. *DHEA contributes to 150 different metabolic functions and when the adrenals pump out stress hormones then DHEA levels fall. Specifically there is a seesaw relationship between DHEA and cortisol and when more cortisol is excreted to help you cope with stress — DHEA levels plummet leading to impaired immunity, rising cholesterol, increased cancer risks and cardiovascular disease, low energy, declining sex drive, accumulation of excess fat, depression and memory loss.
  4. Sugar commonly also known as sucrose, glucose, dextrose, fructose and corn syrup — raises glucose levels fast and high which accelerates aging. Because of the increased glycation which contributes to obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis the body responds by secreting insulin designed to reduce glucose in the bloodstream which causes a roller coaster of energy which can cause anxiety (among other symptoms) which again strain the adrenals among other organs.
  5. Stress Then and Now: used to be episodic, meaning our ancestor’s adrenals only pumped out adrenaline when there was a wild animal or other sudden invaders which physiologically helped protect us from sure death while we were calmly foraging for food. Every gram of glucose and fat that was excreted into our bloodstream by the liver was used up which is one reason our ancestor’s remained lean. Today the stress is chronic because we not only deal with traffic stress to get to work, we remain in the fight or flight/self preservation mode throughout the work day. This is where we learn to use our ego’s defense mechanisms to stuff our emotions and feelings of frustration and anger so that we can get along with others at our job. Then we drive in stressful rush hour to go home where there may be more work to do with our family relationships and caring for our possessions before going to sleep and starting over again. “Me” time is limited and relaxation is curbed by daily priorities and deadlines.
  6. Original impact of Fight or Flight’s/Self Preservation’s physiological effect to assist our bodies
    1. Pupils dilate
    2. Heart rate and blood pressure rise to accelerate delivery of oxygen and fuel to muscles and critical organs
    3. Blood flow diverted from noncritical areas such as stomach to critical areas as heart, liver and muscles
    4. Liver releases glucose and fatty acids into blood for immediate energy and fat in case fight or flight takes longer
    5. Bronchial tubes dilate to maximize exchange of oxygen in and carbon dioxide out
  • **Effects of chronic stress today
    1. Poor sleep: elevated Cortisol/DHEA ratio causes uncertainty in going to sleep or staying asleep which is associated to fatigue which is associated to higher blood pressure and brain fog
    2. Memory loss: Cortisol produces changes in brain biochemistry especially in people with Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s patients who do have higher levels of DHEA and lower Cortisol performed better on memory and functioning tests. Alzheimer’s patients with Depression showed improvements in memory as well as mood by raising DHEA levels.
    3. Poor relaxation of adrenals is also associated to body aches, lower pain threshold, depression, and excessive worry associated to anxiety.


• Researchers discovered that DHEA had powerful anxiety-reducing effects and the assumption was that it acted as a sedative, similar to Valiu. Subsequent research, however, showed that the anxiety reduction was accompanied by improvements in mental acuity, decision making, memory, and learning ability.
** 80% of all doctor visits are anxiety/stress related disorders
1. The Metabolic Plan, Stay Younger Longer by Stephen Cherniske, M.S.