Dr. Lovleena Lama
New Delhi, January 3- Stress is a very commonly encountered word on everyday basis. It can be experienced through all ages, from a toddler heading to a day care, to a teenage having relationships issues, to a working mom putting everything up and running for the entire family and an elderly mom worrying about her daughter.
A lot of us in our daily life experience unexpressed stress, which can be mental, emotional and physical. It can be stress related to the financial aspect, relationships or a deadline to be met at work, this brings an overwhelming feeling of fear, for which our body is designed to react in a unique way that most of us are unaware of.
Stress is a ‘Silent Killer’ and has many long term effects on our health. Some stress is good and positive which makes us more focused and productive, but constant stress makes body respond for an alarming situation and stimulates body`s fight -or- flight response.
Our body responds to numerous situations in a day and any stressful situation will be the one that is ‘demand’ or ‘threat’, which activates our sympathetic system, which produces hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone, which is produced by adrenal gland and increases heart rate and blood flow, and leads to release of cholesterol and triglycerides into the blood stream. Plaque buildup in arteries due to chronic stress, when combined with high fat diet and sedentary life style leads to coronary artery disease and it has been shown that animals don’t develop much of it as they don’t deal with much other than finding food or mate. They don’t have to think about looking beautiful, buying cars and homes, credit card bills etc.
Not everyone responds to stress in the same way, it varies from person to person, some of the factors that influences are personality type, genetic vulnerability, coping style and social support.
Stress can cause many health issues like heart disease, obesity, worsen asthma, diabetes, hypertension, migraine, depression, anxiety, weakens the immune system, gastrointestinal problems and accelerated aging.
It is our responsibility to take control, being mindful and not ignoring any signals that our body gives us. Stress will always exist in our lifestyle, by becoming more aware and finding helpful coping skills is important.
Breathing exercises, mindfulness, stretching and, meditation are proven to be beneficial in calming the mind down. Physical activity like walking, swimming, boxing, cycling, jogging, martial arts or any cardio workout 30 minutes for two days a week helps body a long way.
Diet plays a huge role in managing stress, avoiding high carbohydrates, high sugar and alcoholic drinks, increasing fruits and vegetables in diet, after all we are what we put in our body.
It is important to make time for ourselves and protect our overall health. Most importantly, remember, love yourself but don’t be selfish. Do not fall prey to compare yourself with anyone.
(The writer is a leading psychiatrist based in Boston, USA)