In psychology, stress is the feeling of strain or pressure. In biology, stress is the body’s method of reacting to a challenge. In everyday life, however, stress is simply anything that saps you of your energy, mood or just plain makes life hard. Stress is linked to a myriad of health concerns and causes everyone, at one point or another, to feel some sort of inner struggle. Stress is natural and manageable, but needs to be properly understood in order to deal with. So how does stress affect your life?
Again, certain levels of stress are normal and even acceptable. But when stress levels get too high or go unchecked for too long, they become a condition known as distress. Distress goes beyond dealing with life’s added pressures such as traffic, work, family and other common concerns. Distress is an extreme reaction to these and other stressors and can lead to several physical symptoms. Most common are headaches, body aches, upset stomach, chest pain and elevated blood pressure. To put this in perspective, 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments or complaints. Sadly, if not predictably, the common practice of using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs to try to relieve stress is counterproductive. Instead of relieving stress and returning the body to a relaxed state, these substances keep the body in a stressed state and only exasperates the problem.
Stress takes a particular toll on the heart, the leading killer of Americans being heart disease. While further research is needed to determine exactly how stress leads to heart disease, it is well established that stress contributes indirectly in multiple ways. In addition to raising blood pressure and cholesterol levels, stress often dictates people’s behaviors. Drinking too much alcohol, smoking, inactivity and over-eating are all common misguided attempts to manage stress.
To properly understand and manage stress, Viva Medicare strongly suggest you consult a medical professional for proper treatment. But generally speaking, exercising, maintaining a positive outlook on life, enjoying a healthy diet, refraining from smoking and drinking too much caffeine and maintaining a healthy weight are all common stress management tools.