Stress is something that everyone has dealt with at some point in his or her life. It can be caused by a number of factors including work and school environments (i.e. having a heavy workload, dealing with poor management and/or coworkers, having no chance for advancement in your position, failing grades), home life and personal relationships (i.e. children, divorce, moving, the end of a friendship or the loss of a loved one), financial obligations, and even chronic illness or injury.
While the aforementioned reasons are some of the more common causes of stress that family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary sees in patients on a consistent basis, it is important to note that everyone has different triggers. What might seem like a stressful situation to some individuals may not necessarily cause stress for others, and vice versa. For example, shopping for gifts – especially during the holiday season. This can be a fun time of year for many people…but for others it can bring up feelings of dread and, in some causes, will even cause severe anxiety and panic attacks.
Knowing your triggers and being aware of how you respond to stressful situations is a key factor in being able to reduce stress and anxiety. For example, if you find that your stress is triggered by negative news coverage of things like natural disasters and are constantly wondering ‘What if that happens to me?’, it is important to try to avoid those triggers as much as possible. While it’s never good to cut yourself off from the outside world and what’s happening, you can replace those negative triggers with things like movies or music you enjoy. Having a positive attitude is also important when it comes to reducing stress. While it’s definitely not uncommon to jump to the worst-case scenarios, how you perceive certain situations can also determine your reaction and impact your stress level.
You may be familiar with the term ‘fight or flight’ – a term that is commonly used to describe the body’s physical response to stress. During a ‘fight or flight’ response, you may experience symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, chest pain, sweating, and tense muscles. While this is usually a temporary reaction to stress, it is also one of the many reasons why it’s so important to get your stress under control. If your nervous system continually jumps into action as a result of stress, you are at an increased risk of being more prone to illness and can even age more quickly than others. You may also notice other symptoms like headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, upset stomach, and increased irritability. Stress that is long-term and left unaddressed can also lead to hypertension, depression, cardiovascular disease, weight loss or weight gain, ulcers, problems with fertility or a decreased sex drive, skin problems, IBS…the list goes on. This is why managing your stress and getting it under control as soon as possible is so crucial as your quality of health will improve significantly once you do.
One way to reduce stress is to try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. A few examples of different techniques can be found by clicking here. You should also engage in low-impact physical activity. Exercise has been shown to boost the brain’s neurotransmitters known as the endorphins, which trigger feelings of happiness and positivity, and also has many other health benefits. Also be sure to get enough sleep each night. Not only can a lack of sleep contribute to stress, but stress itself can also keep us up at night…therefore, in some cases Dr. Ali Ghahary may need to prescribe patients with medication to help them get a good night’s rest.
Lastly, talk to someone. While some individuals have the ability to combat stress on their own, not everyone can, and needing help isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Reach out to a friend or family member. Trained medical professionals, such as your family physician, are also able to provide you with alternative resources and tips on how to eliminate stress from your life, and can also make referrals to a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist if they deem it necessary.