“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” Because That Will Kill You Too

A new study published in “Experimental Gerontology” shows that its not only the big stressors that increase mortality rates, but the little hassles of life can kill you as well. Not such great news since we all experience stress and much of it cannot be avoided. Some stress is just part of life.

But it’s not all bad news. There is a small overlooked part of the study, a way that the study was designed, that reveals how you can free yourself from an early visit from the Grim Reaper.

Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University, examined the mortality rate data of 1,293 men whose stress levels were tracked over a 21 year period. She looked at two long-term stress patterns:

1) significant life events such as the death of a loved one, loss of job, etc.
2) everyday stress such as arguments with family members, deadlines at work, traffic, etc.

Obviously, the men that experienced more significant stressful life events over the 21 year period were more likely to have died at the end of study. Surprisingly though, the men that reported a higher number of everyday hassle type of stress, were even more likely to die as the men that experienced major life stressors. In addition, the mortality rate of these men was more than double that of the men who reported a low number of everyday hassles in their life.

So to live a long life, just avoid major life stressors and the everyday hassle type of stress as well. “Who needs a research study to tell you that” you say? Well, that really is a no-brainer. But there is something in the design of the study that shouldn’t be overlooked because it reveals a key to unlocking you from the deathly grip of stress.

In this study, the men self-reported their levels of everyday stress. This is a common research study design element especially in a prospective cohort study such as this one where you follow a group of people over time and study the effects of their behaviors over time.

This means that each person in the study determined for themselves whether or not their everyday life were stressful or not. Their own perception determined their stress levels, not some objective criteria. So one person might not mind his 30 minute commute to work and report a low level of stress in this area while another person might get really frustrated and upset about the traffic on his drive to and from work and report a high level of stress. Same commute, different perception. Different attitude, different outcome.

Aldwin stated,

“Stressful life events are hard to avoid, but men may live longer if they’re able to control their attitudes about everyday hassles, such as long lines at the store or traffic jams on the drive home.”

I have written a lot about stress and it’s affect on your health. I believe that stress is the #1 cause of ALL sickness and disease. Therefore as a health care provider, I believe it should be my #1 job to teach you how to handle your stress more effectively so it doesn’t break your health down. In fact, I wrote an entire stress reducing “lifestyle makeover” program to help you do this.

And the first thing for you to realize is that the majority of your stress is self-induced and that you can stop stressing yourself out. The next step is to take control of your attitude and start using diet, exercise and relaxation methods to dissipate your accumulated stress and allow you to better adapt to the new stresses that come your way.

The Grim Reaper will visit you soon enough. Don’t send him an early invitation by living a stressful life and continuing unhealthy lifestyle habits. Not when all of that is in your power to change it.

About the Author

Dr. Jay Warren has been a prenatal and pediatric chiropractor for 17 years. He is also the Wellness Care Coordinator at the CAP Wellness Center in San Diego, CA where 90% of his practice is pregnant or postpartum women and babies under one year old. Dr. Jay is a proud member of the ICPA and APPPAH (the Association or Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health) and the host of the podcast “Healthy Births, Happy Babies” in iTunes. His online program, “Connecting with Baby” guides pregnant women through processes to strengthen maternal bonding for a happier pregnancy, gentler birth and easier post-partum experience. Dr. Jay is also the proud father of his 3 year old son, Niko who keeps him very busy (and happy) outside of the office.