The Price of Perpetual Stress: Mental Health Fallout of Imbalanced Lives

Many of us live busy lives. There can be something great about this, particularly if our days are full of enriching and positive experiences. But what happens if the things that make us busy push us beyond what is comfortable or healthy?

A little stress is usually pretty manageable. It’s when stress becomes a constant and oppressive presence in our lives that it becomes problematic. This is often the result of a lifestyle imbalance in favour of work. There are benefits to taking steps that prioritize our mental wellness, but stress can prevent us from seeing beyond the apparent urgency of the immediate professional duties in front of us and how we can put ourselves first. Let’s take a closer look at the toxic presence of perpetual stress and what we can do to redress the balance.

Guest post by Katie Brenneman


Rising Perpetual Stress

It’s an unfortunate fact that perpetual — more frequently known as chronic — stress is a rising problem. One recent study found it’s an issue across multiple demographics, with 49% of respondents aged 45 to 54 suffering from stress, going all the way up to 66% of 18 to 24-year-olds. But what do we mean by the term “chronic stress?” Effectively, this is a continual activation of the stress response systems in the body. People experiencing it get almost no reprieve from it, as it is a relentless force in their lives.

Part of the problem here is that the culture of overwork has woven itself into the fabric of modern life. Ambitious businesses that are under pressure to perform in a competitive marketplace can pass this pressure onto their employees. The concept of showing dedication to a job also tends to be glorified, dangled as a carrot, as a way to gain promotions to the extent that individuals often forgo vacations and work longer hours. This can be exacerbated by economic factors, too. Due to rising costs of living, more than 8.4 million Americans are working multiple jobs.

In a society driven by profit generation, this is a systemic issue that the wider business community urgently needs to address. However, it’s unlikely to be addressed in the short term. As a result, individuals need to take steps to recognize the causes and impacts of stress and commit to finding ways to minimize it in their own lives.


The Toll on Mental Wellness

Stress can often be treated a little too lightly. Its prominence can make it seem that everybody experiences stress and, therefore, it’s perfectly normal. Yes, it’s common, but this certainly doesn’t mean it’s okay. By recognizing the serious toll that unaddressed perpetual stress can take on mental wellness, the focus can shift to ways to redress the balance.

Let’s start with some of the basics. When we’re put under prolonged experiences of stress, it can become more difficult to regulate our emotions. It’s not unusual for those living with stress to exhibit behaviour such as irritability, anxiety, and even aggression. Stressors essentially make the brain feel as though it’s in danger, releasing serotonin and adrenaline as it prepares itself for a fight, fight, or freeze response. When people face this constantly in their everyday lives, the system becomes overworked.

Unfortunately, this constant engagement of the brain’s stress response doesn’t just result in behavioural or emotional shifts. Studies suggest that chronic stress can also influence the onset of severe psychiatric disorders. These can include major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others. This is because chronic stress doesn’t just affect our emotions but also our neurology.

Even when the result isn’t the extremes of mental illness, chronic stress can cause cognitive challenges. People who experience stress can find they become distracted quite easily or that their memory is impaired. Indeed, stress is often associated with sleep disruptions, which can further disrupt cognitive functions.

This isn’t just an unpleasant experience that affects quality of life. It also tends to deteriorate people’s ability to perform effectively in the workplace, which disrupts productivity, leading to additional pressure to work harder and longer. Thus, the cycle of overwork, lifestyle imbalance, and stress is perpetuated.


The Value of Holistic Self-Care

Okay, so it’s clear that overwork is a significant problem. How can we—as individuals facing stress—start to address it? Holistic self-care is a powerful tool here. This is about not just making the clear divide between home life and work life or occasionally pampering oneself. Though, these are important. Rather, it’s a way to adopt practices that prioritize your overall wellness in all areas of your life, enabling you to be more resilient and healthy.


Taking time for physical wellness

It is important to recognize that there’s a connection between physical and mental wellness. Exercise has been shown to increase endorphins and improve one’s mood, as well as offset the effects of stress. Going on a run, taking time to go out in nature, or doing gentle exercises like yoga can all be ways to get this benefit. It is important to speak with your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise routine, however.

Physical wellness can also extend to eating well and taking care of your body through a dedicated self-care routine. For example, soaking in a hot tub can improve your quality of life by diminishing physical pain associated with exercise or providing relief from symptoms associated with conditions such as arthritis.


Incorporating leisure time

Another vital aspect of holistic self-care is incorporating activities into every day that are not just related to work but bring us a genuine sense of joy and fulfillment. Our leisure time provides personal enrichment and the positivity we gain from it also tends to help boost psychological resilience. In a packed work schedule, it’s wise to adopt strategies to balance hobbies with daily duties. These can include:


  • Taking time each week to schedule blocks of time for specific hobbies alongside your work tasks.
  • Combining hobbies with other activities can bring joy alongside practical benefits. For instance, daily commuting to work or the store can be combined with your cycling hobby.
  • Making a dedicated space for your hobby. Establishing this separated area essentially forces you to step physically away from work so you can fully focus on your hobby and—importantly—your needs.

Cultivating self-compassion

A commonly overlooked element of holistic self-care is daily self-compassion. It’s easy to feel guilty or judge oneself if we’re feeling chronic stress or falling short of performance expectations. In fact, we might even judge ourselves harshly if we don’t meet the self-care goals we set. We need to treat ourselves with the kindness and patience we would offer to a close friend or relative.

 Recognize when negative self-talk occurs and counter it with more realistic opinions. Take breaks and walk in nature. Keeping a regular routine of mindfulness and meditation can be important, too. After all, it’s a way to dedicate time to focusing on the present, check in with ourselves, and identify mental wellness concerns to address.


Living with perpetual stress due to toxic cycles of overwork can be seriously detrimental to quality of life and mental wellness. It’s vital to understand the causes so you can make informed decisions alongside taking steps to prioritize self-care. Additionally, leaders of businesses need to be cognizant of excessive expectations that infringe upon workers’ ongoing safety, happiness, and productivity. When employees and staff members collaborate on addressing these issues, there’s a chance for a healthier and more positive experience for everyone involved.



Mark Munroe is the Creator and EIC of ADDICTED. He's ADDICTED to great travel, amazing food, better grooming & probably a whole lot more!