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Don’t Be a Victim to this Silent Killer

Our bodies were not made to handle unresolved, chronic stress.

By Grace Jauwena

Chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. Life is full of stress, and it affects young and old alike, rich and poor. Stress is a silent killer.

Simply put, stress is what we experience when we are confronted with a problem that we don’t have the resources to solve or cope with. Stress can negatively affect your health even if you’re doing all the right things. This is not to say that one should not eat healthily; it’s still important to keep the body’s defenses strong should something come up. Eating a nutritionally balanced diet remains important, but the main key is in your lifestyle. It’s necessary to evaluate your lifestyle and assess areas that need to be improved.

Stress is a normal and everyday part of life, but when it becomes chronic, it is called distress.

Chronic stress—distress—sets us up for chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Extended Periods of Stress

Daily stressors are to be expected—traffic, workload, disagreements at home, and so on. However, holding in anger, guilt, resentment, and the like can cause a buildup, lowering our immune function. Research shows that chronic stress can affect every system in the body. Imagine being on a constant fight-or-flight response. Once the supposed danger subsides, the body will return to its normal heart rate and breathing. However, if the stress is chronic, this period continues and can trigger a plethora of illnesses.

Chronic stress puts you more at risk for diseases. It causes an immune response that compromises its effectiveness and leads to inflammatory reactions. It can cause unwanted weight gain, prediabetic symptoms, and poor digestion. There is a link to stress and allergic reactions, GERD, inflammatory bowel disease, coronary heart disease, hypertension, cancer, hormone imbalance, and more. Hormonal imbalance is linked to anxiety, depression, infertility, menstrual disturbances, and aging. Not all will develop an illness or react the same way to stress, but the bottom line is that stress suppresses our immune system. Since the body and mind sympathize, poor digestion can also cause fluctuations in our emotional and mental well-being.

Mental health is important because it affects our quality of life, our enjoyment of it, and our ability to perform and contribute. This should be taken seriously on the levels of the individual, the family, society, church, and the world. With that being said, let’s take a look at the following facts.

Causes and Effects of Stress on the Body

The body is amazing in how it adjusts to situations. When we understand how the body operates, the puzzle pieces come together on how to manage stress effectively. Since stress causes a fight-or-flight response, that means the body is preparing itself to handle danger. When there is no threat posed and it is simply chronic stress, here are some factors that could be possible culprits.

Poor Diet: What we eat is linked to our overall well-being. The life is in the blood, and what we eat makes up our blood. Diets full of refined sugars and carbohydrates, chemicals, processed foods, and stimulating compounds like caffeine cause immune reactions, digestive issues, and lead to disease. We may find ourselves experiencing headaches, migraines, fatigue, and irritability.

Toxins: Toxins are found in our environment and the products we use at home.

Emotional problems: Depression, anxiety, anger, guilt.

Work-Related Stress: Insecurity about job advancement or termination, dangerous work conditions, work harassment, job discontentment, long work hours.

Major Life Changes: A death in the family, divorce, job loss, moving, illnesses or injuries, and traumatic events like theft, violence, or even rape.

Worry: Fear and uncertainty, unrealistic expectations, your attitude and perceptions.

Stressful Situations: Life doesn’t always turn out the way we think it will. I have experienced things to which I thought I would never be susceptible despite how watchful I am with my plant-based diet. However, as mentioned previously, stress tends to overpower that. Although, note that good nutrition and exercise help keep things under control when stress overwhelms.

I recall stressful periods in my life in which I experienced negative health consequences. I was faced with an unusual and draining situation that caused me to feel like I was constantly walking on eggshells. The complexity of the situation continued to worsen. Before I knew it, I became extremely dizzy. For two months, it was difficult to function without having vertigo attacks. Sleeping at night became difficult because my vertigo was accompanied by anxiety. Vertigo can be triggered by stress, and sure enough, I was diagnosed with a stress-related, anxiety-induced vertigo. As the situation passed, so did my anxiety and vertigo. I felt that I hit a low point in my life, and I knew I had to do something within my control.

All that time, I had not changed anything in my diet, and according to the doctors, my health was fine and the blood tests always came back just fine. Since then, I have learned to manage intense and unexpected stress more effectively, as well as change my attitude towards intense situations. That was what made the difference in my ability to keep my health better intact when faced with external stressors that were beyond my control.

Don’t Stress About It

It isn’t enough to be knowledgeable about what stress does to the body; it’s critical to take it one step further and learn how to manage and reduce stress. Sometimes we aren’t entirely sure how to deal with our stress because we can’t see it. Here are proven methods that have also helped me.

Prayer and God’s Word: Starting my day this way gives me peace and a much smoother day. I give God my burdens and feel much lighter as I go throughout my day.

Gratitude: Cultivating thankfulness helps prevent complaining and wallowing.

Helping others: This takes our minds off ourselves and puts us in tune with the realities and needs of others less fortunate than we are.

Wholistic Lifestyle: A balanced lifestyle is the best way to handle stress. This includes exercise, proper nutrition, sunshine, air, rest, drinking enough water, and temperance.

“It is not work that kills; it is worry.”[1]Stress and worry are linked. Worry makes the situation feel heavier and causes more stress. I have found that taking my worries to God and leaving them there has helped me avoid worry! It is truly liberating. Moderate amounts of stress increase performance, but chronic stress poses health hazards.

This is one of my all-time favorite Bible verses that keeps things in perspective for me and reminds me that I can experience peace and not fall victim to the silent killer, stress:

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.


  1. Ellen G. White, Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, p. 466.

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About the author

Grace Jauwena is a health coach who focuses on plant-based nutrition and natural remedies. She strives to help others thrive wholistically and is pursuing a doctorate degree in natural medicine. She loves to cook, create recipes, style food, and take photos. In her free time, she explores new foods, hiking trails, and beaches with her husband and spends time with family and friends. Used with permission from Life and Health Network.