Managing stress

Everyday life is filled with struggles. For some people, stress is so common that it becomes part of their everyday routine. A little bit of stress on your body won’t do you any harm – in fact it can motivate you to do your best. On the other hand, an excessive amount of stress that is ongoing plays havoc on your physical wellbeing. If you constantly find yourself feeling overwhelmed it’s time to get some help.

So, what is stress?

Stress is a physical reaction to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance. This stress response from your body is its way of looking after you. Up to a certain point a stress response can be very helpful, especially in emergency situations where stress can save your life.

But your body will reach a certain point where stress stops being good and starts causing damage to your health, the way you work, your moods and relationships, as well as your quality of life. The most telling sign of stress becoming detrimental to your health is when it has been ongoing for a long time rather than stress in relation to a particular event.

Your body can’t tell whether you have physical or mental threats – so it doesn’t matter whether you are having an argument with your spouse or are stuck in traffic, your body reacts as if you are facing a threatening situation. Continually allowing your body to be exposed to this kind of stress can lead to serious health problems, like raised blood pressure or a compromised immune system. This can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and can speed up the ageing process.

Health problems which can be caused, or exacerbated, by stress, include:

  • Heart disease
  • Anxiety and depression
  •  Weight control
  • Digestive problems
  • Skin conditions, like eczema
  • High blood pressure

Common external causes of stress:

  • Major life changes
  • Work pressures
  • Financial problems
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Being too busy
  • Children and family

Common psychological causes of stress:

  • Inability to accept uncertainty
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Pessimism
  • Perfectionism

So, how do you fix stress? You can fix stress by removing the cause. If you can’t remove the cause then you need to learn to manage it. Stress management involves changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself, and making time for rest and relaxation. Getting enough sleep is also an important factor. 

It’s also a good idea to find a stress release – team sports are a great way of being social while you are doing your body some good. Eating a well balanced diet and getting regular exercise can help you manage your stress.

If you can, talk to your friends or parents. But remember that your community pharmacist is always there to give you lifestyle advice. We are not just all about the pills and potions – we can advise you on exercise, nutrition  and your general wellbeing. As the health professional you see most often we are always available if you need to talk.