Stress and your health

 

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Stress and your health

October 15, 2014

 

 

We live in uncertain times. Some folks are experiencing greater stress now because of the circumstances created by these uncertain times. However, stress and worry have always been a part of the human condition and the ability to manage in the face of these challenges is definitely better understood today than it ever has been before.

 

What are some of the consequences of stress?

There are many situations that can represent severe stress—war, violence, malnutrition, and famine are some of the most severe forms of stress. However, we can also experience more “everyday” forms of stress including financial problems, work related stress, and difficulty in interpersonal relationships. Everyone has stress in his life. However, when it comes to these more common forms of stressful situations, how we handle that stress often determines whether there are negative outcomes of this stress. People who have difficulty managing their stress often experience greater difficulties in life. This can manifest as breakdowns in relationships, difficulty in workplace performance, and negative health outcomes.

 

Are there specific health conditions that are related to stress?

There are several health conditions that may be worsened by stress. These include high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, decreased immunity, insomnia and headaches.

 

I’ve heard that heart attacks and stomach ulcers are related to stress. Is this true?

The link between heart disease and stress is not fully understood. There does seem to be a connection but how the two interact is not clear.

 

While there is a medical condition called “stress ulcers”, this is a condition that describes severe physiologic stress that occurs in the Intensive Care unit. The link between chronic stress and gastrointestinal ulcers is not as clear.

 

Why are some people better able to cope with stress?

As with all conditions, it is often a combination of genetics and environment. Some people are born with greater difficulty in managing stress. However, many people have never learned effective coping mechanisms.

 

What should I do about stress?

Of course, if you are experiencing severe depression and having thoughts of harming yourself or others, you should not delay in seeking medical attention. For less severe symptoms, it is useful to examine your daily life. If you cannot change the circumstances that are causing your stress, then you will have to improve your ability to cope with your circumstances. Eating right, getting plenty of rest, learning time management can help. Also, regular exercise can be a very effective stress reducer. People who have a supportive and extensive social network often can cope with stress better. Engaging in specific relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation is often helpful. Being able to talk about what is bothering you will often help to relieve some of your stress. You will also want to examine changing the way you think about and behave with your stressful situations. If you are engaging in these lifestyle changes and you still feel significant stress, you may benefit from professional help. Talk to your doctor and explore your options.

 

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