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How is stress affecting your health?

How is stress affecting your health?

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We have all felt what it is to be stressed. For some people every day can be stressful. For others, stress occurs when there is a significant event that you feel is beyond you. Sometimes stress can be a positive force, it can motivate you to get up and look for solutions and do what is needed.

However, most times stress is associated with negative outcomes. For example, when you’re stuck in traffic it becomes a negative force. You begin to feel anxious; your blood pressure starts to increase especially if you are going to be late for an important meeting or an interview. When you experience stress over a prolonged period of time, it could become chronic and start affecting your health unless you take action.

 Stress is a normal human reaction. When the body perceives that it is faced with danger, be it physical, mental, emotional or social issues, the body kicks into gear, hormones begin to take over and this causes an elevation of your heart rate. Your blood pressure begins to increase, and you may feel a boost of energy to help you prepare to deal with the problem. For some people it may be the opposite. They may feel as if they want to curl up and just vanish. When you are confronted with stressful situations, most times you are unable to think properly because there is so much that is going on.

When stress becomes chronic, that is, you feel stress most of the time and it starts interfering with your ability to live a normal life for an extended period this makes it very dangerous. The longer the stress lasts, the worse it is for both your mind and body. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason. Chronic stress can cause wear and tear on your body. Stress can make existing problems worse.  Chronic stress may also cause diseases, either because of changes in your body or because you may do things to react to the stress.

For example, some people may smoke or take up other bad habits like consuming excessive amounts of alcohol to cope with stress. Stress is associated with increased risk of heart disease so taking up these habits only make the situation grave. Other forms of chronic stress, such as depression and low levels of social support, have also been associated with increased cardiovascular risk. If you are sick, stress can also make it harder to recover.

Reducing your stress levels does not only make you feel better, but it may also protect your health in the long-term. In order to better deal with your stress, it is important that you identify what is causing the stress. This is the first and most important step. Secondly, get help in dealing with the situation. We may think that we can deal with it ourselves or we do not want anyone to know what is going on. However, when you are stressed you cannot think right, and you are less likely to be able to deal with it. Building strong relationship and having a good network to support you can help. It may be at work, your family, at church or even social clubs where you can talk to others.

Finally, when you are angry and upset, walk away. Don’t stress about things that you cannot change. Do not use your energy on getting angry and stressed, but use it to find a solution to the problem. Find some time to relax the mind through exercise, yoga, meditation, music etc.

Dr. Rosmond Adams, MD; MSc (Public Health); M.S (Bioethics) is a medical doctor and a public health specialist with training in bioethics and ethical issues in medicine, the life sciences and research. He is a lecturer of medical ethics and Research Methods.

He is the Head of Health Information, Communicable Disease and Emergency Response at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). He is also a member of the World Health Organization Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs.

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