CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR NURSES
Stress and Disease
£9.95 GBP, 2 hours
ABSTRACT

Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives, but some occupations (including nursing and midwifery) and some life events are particularly stressful. Chronic and/or high levels of stress may directly affect a person’s health and well-being. Stress —where internal or external factors threaten normal function—triggers adaptive responses with both physiological and behavioural effects. While everyone experiences major stressful events in their life, an individual’s vulnerability to, or resilience against stress varies and can challenge our ability to provide supportive care. 

Stress affects most body systems and has been linked to health conditions including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, and impaired immunity. 

The stress response was initially described mainly by its acute effect on the cardiovascular system—fright, flight or fight. More recently, research shows that stress affects many other parts of the body, even inducing significant changes in the structure and function of the brain. Scientists’ understanding of the way stress affects our bodies is increasingly focussing on neurological and developmental issues, immune function and inflammation, and the way these link stress and chronic illness. 

Understanding how chronic stress directly affects body systems and behaviour can help in the prevention and management of a wide range of chronic diseases. Nurses who recognise the far-reaching impacts of stress (on themselves, colleagues, patients, and carers) are better able to promote and support validated stress reduction interventions in their practice.


After completing this online activity and quiz, you should be able to:

  • Describe the physiological pathways involved in acute and chronic stress.
  • Outline the impacts of stress on the cardiovascular system, brain and other body systems.
  • Outline the role stress plays in development of disease.

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