Bradenton Herald — Stress can morph into many different forms, and in today’s world, it seems to be lurking everywhere. Hiding in your finances, waiting for you at your job, surprising you in your marriage, stalking you with the kids. You may feel like life has dealt you a bad deck of too much work and too many worries.
But what you may not realize is that, if handled the wrong way, stress can pose a threat to your physical and mental well-being, raining down an assortment of ailments.
“Many, if not most, interactions in a complex society result in a measure of stress,” said Dr. Michael Day of Cardiology Associates of Bradenton. “Consider the more primitive societies, such as Tibet, where people live longer without hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis, obesity, heart attack and stroke.”
Here in American, adults face a multiplicity of headaches, upset stomachs, high blood pressure, chest pain and insomnia from being over-stressed, according to to www.WebMD.com. Stress also may contribute to heart problems, skin problems, asthma, arthritis, depression and anxiety.
So the next time you see a doctor, ask yourself if your ailments are caused by the existence of stress in your life. Chances are good they may be. The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that stress accounts for two-thirds of family doctor visits.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has gone as far as declaring stress a “hazard of the work place,” according its the Web site.
Believe it or not, stress can be good for us – for those fight or flight emergency situations where we need to be on our toes. But outside of those moments, when we are constantly under the gun and can’t find relief and relaxation, stress can lead to health dangers.
“In a stressful situation, one experiences a “fight or flight” reflex, which pours catecholamines (adrenal-like chemicals) into the blood stream, resulting in an increased heart rate, increased force of cardiac contraction and increased blood pressure,” said Day. “The catecholamines activate platelets in the blood, resulting in platelet aggregation and possible heart attack and stroke.”
Those who are older are more susceptible to such ailments, Day said.
Stress could also be part of the problem behind ulcers and gall bladder diseases, said Dr. Eduardo Cortes of Cortes Family Physicians in Bradenton, though there’s not a direct link between the two.
“Of course, it could be some other issues, but (stress) may exacerbate the problem,” he said.
Cortes said people who haven’t gone to the doctor in a while and are suffering from severe stress should get a physical exam, checking for high blood pressure, hypertension and other possible problems that might go unnoticed otherwise.
While stress has the power to wear your body down, it also can effect emotions and behavior, making you cranky and irritable, said Barbara Stubbers, a licensed clinical social worker and marriage and family therapist in Bradenton.
Besides moodiness, extra worries and stress can cause a lack of sleep, which, in turn, contributes to a host of other problems, including weight gain and mental fatigue.
Ways to de-stress
Seeing what stress can do to the body, one may decide to cut his or her losses and move to Tibet, where life is simpler, but there are much easier ways to de-stress your life.
Stubbers suggests lots of physical exercise to help melt away tension, anxiety and depression. Relaxation techniques are good too, said Cortes. Eating well – no over- or under-eating -and refraining from smoking and alcohol also will help.
“Do all the things that mom always told you to do,” Stubbers said.
Talking to a counselor or friend makes people feel better too, she said. Many places of employment offer an assistance program for employees who would like counseling or just someone who will lend an ear.
Other people lift their spirits through prayer and attending church, said Stubbers.
Other medical advice includes taking breaks throughout the day from work, listening to smoothing music or picking up a new hobby, such as knitting or playing an instrument, to get your mind off stressful things.
Instead of drowning in stress, Day believes it is wise to go see a doctor for additional help and encouragement. Though stress is a part of life, don’t let it knock you out.
“The physician can help with the effects of the stress on the body through medication and counseling,” he said. “And the patient can recognize that potentially stressful situations are best handled successively, rather than concurrently.”
Healthy ways to relax
• Meditate. Find a quiet place to sit. Set a timer for five or 10 minutes. Close your eyes and visualize a beautiful, peaceful scene. Concentrate on your breathing, taking slower, deeper breaths.
• Stretch. While sitting, lace your fingers and reach over your head, palms facing up. Hold for 20 seconds. Then extend your legs in front of you and alternately flex and point your feet for 10 seconds each.
• Clean. Burning off nervous energy as you whittle down your chore list is instantly gratifying. While you’re at it, find 10 pieces of clutter to throw or give away.
• Call a friend. But instead of rehashing the details of your day and feeling the stress all over again, talk about something funny that happened. Laughter releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
• Have a cuppa. Tea, that is. Find a wonderful-smelling, caffeine-free, herbal variety and breathe in the aromatic vapors as you slowly sip.
• Soak. Fill the tub, light some candles, put on some soothing music. Climb in, lie back and let the stress drain.
• Get outdoors. Yes, it’s hot. But it’s not too bad in the morning and evening, so take a stroll around the neighborhood. Leave the iPod at home and let the music of crickets and cicadas clear your mind.
• Get a fur fix. Studies indicate that petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure. Don’t have a pet? Volunteer at an animal shelter.
• Have a mini-massage. Rub your temples, neck and shoulders, areas where stress builds.
• Read. Lose yourself in someone else’s story and escape your own worries for a while.
– McClatchy Newspapers
SOURCES: isnare.com, unh.edu, cnn.com