The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

An Unsolicited Opinion: Stress will LITERALLY kill you


Two weeks ago, when temperatures plummeted well below freezing, all I was thinking about was how winter was the absolute worst. This week, with finals looming, all I can think about is how stress is the absolute worst.

I won’t lay out an argument for why stress is the worst because, unlike winter (which I guess a few weirdos out there enjoy), I can’t imagine anyone arguing that stress is good thing. However, a few Google searches did confirm my belief that stress is, in fact, the absolute, straight-up worst.

Stress is actually worse and more serious than I thought it was, and given my tendency to catastrophize, this is rather impressive. It turns out stress will kill you. Yes, my extensive research into the subject (reading four articles) confirms that if you don’t calm down, you will die.

Apparently prolonged exposure to stress can cause increased levels of cortisol which can lower immune function and bone density and increase blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.

Image of columnist Katherine Moody
Columnist Katherine Moody. Photo contributed

And if you’re thinking, “Well I’m only worried about a couple of papers—not the world ending, so I’m probably fine.” First, why aren’t you more worried about the world ending? Are you not paying attention? And second, even if you are only worried about papers, there is no distinguishing between stress from major and minor problems. Both, if chronic, have the same effects.

So, if you find yourself feeling chronically stressed, here’s what you do: do not do any research on the effects of stress. This will only stress you out more. I promise. All of the articles with titles like “Best not Sweat the Small Stuff, Because It Could Kill You,” and “If It Feels like Stress Is Killing You, That’s Because It Might Be…” were obviously written by psychos with the goal of stressing out (and, therefore, killing) their readers.

Instead, take the one piece of advice that the medical community agrees is the “magic pill” for stress: half an hour of moderate aerobic exercise. I’m absolutely sure this is the consensus because it wasn’t the answer I wanted, so I spent another 20 minutes looking for articles from reputable sources with a different, better way to reduce stress.

But it seems that if you are feeling stressed and worried about its effects (or even if you just want to feel better), then exercise is the surest remedy. While watching TV shows and reading might feel relaxing, inactive forms of relaxation are less effective in relieving stress.

However, if you are unable to exercise, or you are just dead set against it, there are some other things you can try to help you unwind. Smelling essential oils like lavender and sage can help you calm down, as can drinking chamomile or peppermint tea. Listening to music, socializing with friends, and watching cute animal videos on YouTube are all also good ways to combat stress. I’ve watched a video of penguins chasing a butterfly at a zoo in Japan at least 15 times this week, and I feel better after every time I watch it.

If, like me, you find yourself needing to work between penguin videos and want a caffeine fix to help you focus, it’s best to pick green or black tea over coffee. Both green and black tea contain theanine and caffeine, which, when consumed together, are supposed to prevent overstimulation of the nervous system and instead produce a “calm awareness.”

While finding time and different ways to relax is important, relaxation does not take the place of basic self-care like eating healthy and sleeping enough. Stress affects peoples’ appetites differently, but it’s important to make sure that you’re eating three meals a day and getting enough calories. Both calorie restriction and sleep deprivation can increase your chances of getting sick and can exacerbate the risks associated with chronic stress.

All in all, there are a myriad of ways to combat stress, which is good because there is a myriad of ways it can kill you. At the end of the day, just try to exercise, eat responsibly, sleep enough and find ways to relax that work for you. If all else fails, you can even try adopting positive thinking as a last resort.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *