THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL OF CHRONIC STRESS
by Dr Monika Yadav
A wise person once said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, but it appears over the last quarter century that sage advice has been ignored. 8 out of 10 Americans report being affected by moderate levels of stress on a daily basis. Stress is a normal part of life. It is defined as physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension. At times it can serve a useful purpose. For example, training for a race can be stressful. But if you win or beat your best time, that stress led to positivity by increasing your productivity. The type of stress that is concerning is the kind that cannot be harnessed and ultimately leads to a “wear and tear” of the mind and body. This deterioration can potentially last a lifetime.
Common causes of external stress are work issues, money struggles, long-term illness, new responsibilities due to marriage, divorce, or death of a loved one. Internal stress can stem from fear and uncertainty, attitudes and perceptions, unrealistic expectations, or any major life change. Individual stress levels are based on your personality and how you respond to situations. A lot of the times the intensity of the stress is not entirely in your control because there is a genetic factor influencing the reaction.
When you are under stress, your body launches a physical response via the nervous system and a few strong hormones are released to help you cope. But if your stress is chronic, this cascade of powerful hormones stays activated and could eventually deteriorate your mind and body and immune system. Until now we knew that obesity, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, uncontrolled diabetes, etc. could induce heart attacks and strokes—adding stress to anything will accelerate any of these adverse consequences.
Early signs of stress can manifest as headache, fatigue, poor sleep, difficulty concentrating, upset stomach, and irritability. If these symptoms become long-term and not properly addressed, more serious health conditions can ensue, including: depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, weight fluctuations, changes in sex drive, fertility problems, flare-ups in asthma or arthritis, and skin problems.
Seeking help before a stress snowball turns into an avalanche is key. Managing your stress should be a priority. Finding a little time to “disconnect” from life’s daily demands, regular exercise, and a healthy diet are natural techniques to infuse you’re your lifestyle. Also, including regular visits to the doctor, blood-work, therapy sessions or medication may be required for optimal results. Stop and smell the roses as you inhale deeply and exhale slowly with the hopes of more relaxed and positive days!