Stress is everywhere
Robert A. Hatcher MD, MPH
Stress is all about us. It creeps into our lives like fog the day after a rainstorm. Stress seems to taunt us with the refrain: “Stop me if you can.” But sometimes it seems almost impossible to stop. Sometimes it enters our lives from unexpected quarters. Sometimes we can see it a-coming and run from it! Sometimes we bring it on ourselves. Sometimes it happens in response to something completely beyond our control.
So where does all this leave us? Sometimes it leads to paralyzing uncertainty. Stress is undoubtedly a major cause of disease – a formidable foe for a person trying to be healthy!
No one has written my destiny for me or your destiny for you. Perhaps each person’s response to the stress in her or his life is going to affect his or her health as much as any other factor.
What are the diseases linked to stress?
- Anxiety attacks
- Some kinds of headaches
- Failure of women to ovulate (and therefore infertility – more on this in an upcoming column)
- Eating disorders
- Poor school and job performance
What are some ways to lower the stress level?
- Deep breathing is a part of virtually every stress reduction program for the past several thousand years.
- Exercise is important for health and one of the healthiest aspects of regular exercise are the benefits in terms of stress reduction.
- Carrying a book at all times so that frustration from delays while driving, waiting rooms, lines, broken appointments, and waiting for the completion of car repairs becomes a treat rather than an event that raises your blood pressure.
- Carrying a charged up cell phone may also let you make a call you have been wanting to make diminishing your frustration from a delay.
- Daily meditation
- Counting to ten when beginning to become angry.
The serenity prayer outlines the two things you and I can do in the face of each stressful event, experience or relationship we face in the course of a day. This short prayer helps many millions of people every day is this: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Lest stress be given a 100% negative rating, it is certainly true that stress may have some beneficial motivating effects. Stress can heighten our awareness in some situations where awareness is essential. Stress may cause us to eliminate procrastination. And stress may help us to visualize the best course of action for a given situation. But for the most part stress is something I hope to minimize today.