Dealing with stress!


May 24, 2016

Dear Readers,

University student Chevaughn, 23, is "tired" of worrying about whether she will pass her exams; if she can pay school fees or lodging; if her boyfriend is having a relationship with a mutual friend; and about her mom, who was hospitalised recently.

She is tired of the symptoms that affect her and which, the doctor says, are due to stress. Sometimes she has chest pains and her heart beats fast. Sometimes she has a bad headache, and other times, she finds that she just trembles! She is not sleeping well either and wonders when, if ever, her life will feel normal again. She asks Check Up to suggest a way for her to find "peace and calm".

Chevaughn certainly has cause to worry, but worrying never fixes an adverse situation. Worrying cannot prevent the bad things from happening, while it can certainly worsen the situation by affecting the body in surprising ways, which can lead to physical illness!

When worrying excessively, many symptoms can affect the body. Chronic worriers speak of a sense of doom approaching and often become supersensitive to the comments others around them might make, perceiving them as threatening. A chronic worrier can become so anxious that it affects every aspect of his life and interferes with relationships, job performance, sleep patterns, and leads to overeating or a poor appetite and excessive use of drugs and alcohol.

Worrying and feeling anxious are normal reactions to stresses such as sitting an exam or going for a job interview. A little worry can be good as it pushes the person to, for example, prepare better for the job interview, but excessive worrying can cause an inability to focus on the event or to even think clearly.

Stress is everywhere, and while a little stress can be beneficial, too much stress can lead to physical and mental illness. To control stress, the person needs to be able to recognise the stress symptoms that they are exhibiting. Many people don't know that they are stressed until they are near to breaking down.

What stresses one person may be acceptable to someone else, and some people handle stress better than others. The stress response consists of the perception of a 'challenge' and the automatic physiological reaction to the stress, which brings on the surge of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in the body. If the body continues to secrete excessive stress hormones over a long time, physical changes will take place in the body.

The symptoms experienced are myriad and include dizziness, palpitations, nail biting, fatigue, dry mouth, headaches, irritability, poor concentration and nervousness, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, trembling, neck ache, backache, and muscle tension. As excessive stress hormones pour into the body, the immune system becomes suppressed and the person can succumb to illness such as hives and the frequent recurrence of Herpes sores. Muscle tension and heart attacks can also occur, and the person can become depressed and even suicidal. Some symptoms of stress are vague and can resemble certain medical conditions.

Long-term stress can exacerbate serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, hair loss, gastritis, irritable bowel, and many other symptoms.

Coping with stress usually means restructuring one's life to acknowledge the stress symptoms when they occur and takeing evasive and preventive actions. Improving general health by eating healthy food inclusive of a lot of grains, vegetables, and fruit and drinking clean water is always a good place to begin. Avoid stressful environments and stressful people when this is possible and interact only minimally with them when necessary.

Exercise, yoga, pilates, and meditation all bring a sense of peace and calm to the individuals who practise them routinely. Exercise is strongly advised as one method of coping with excessive stress.

When feeling particularly stressed at work, take a five- minute break and visit a quiet corner somewhere. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Breathe out the stressful upsetting thoughts and situations and breathe in peace and strength and calmness.

Slowly, in and out for the count of 10, breathe in and then for the count of 10 again, breathe out. Repeat this five to 10 times and just relax. Drink a cool glass of water before returning to the situation! Try this and see if you do not feel calmer and more able to cope with the situations facing you.

Visit a counsellor or talk with a good, mature friend to get help with learning how to eliminate some stress and how to cope with the remainder. Anti-depressive medications such as Paxil and Zoloft can be prescribed in chronic anxiety or stress to help lift the person's mood.

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