Stress is the emotional or physical tension the body feels when we react to a challenge or a demand. Usually, the cause of stress can be an event or a thought that triggers the feeling of frustration, anger or nervousness. Stress in short bursts can help in avoiding danger or meeting a deadline, but if it lasts long, it may affect the health. Although stress is a normal thing in everyday life, the way one deals with stress is what matters the most.
There are two main types of stress:
- Acute Stress – This type of stress is short-term and goes away. It’s the feeling when you bang on brakes, have an argument with friends or partners etc. This kind of stress helps you handle dangerous situations, and at one time or another, everybody goes through it.
- Chronic Stress – This kind of stress is what leads to major health problems. Chronic stress lasts for a long time even without us realizing it is a problem. It caused due to money problems, troubled marriage, or a bad work environment etc.
Are you cool as a cucumber or a cartoon character losing their calm when dealing with trouble or under pressure? Well, everyone has a different way of reacting to stress. The way you react to stressful situations can lead to various health problems. Stress often leads to various behavioural and psychological factors that can give rise to increased risk of heart diseases: high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, overindulgence in food, physical inaction and smoking. While people presumably drink & smoke to “manage” stress, all it does is increase blood pressure and damage artery walls causing more problems. Stress zaps your energy, meddles with sleep, makes you feel cranky, forgetful and out of control. Our body’s response to a stressful situation may be a headache, back strain or stomach cramps.
Stress is not good for our hearts. Period. If you find yourself often stressed and failing to deal with it, then you are more prone to having heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain or irregular heartbeats. Constant exposure to stress hormones can raise blood pressure which is not good for the body. Responding to it in an unhealthy way like smoking, drinking, overeating, will only make it more complicated.
How to deal with Stress?
Understanding the techniques to cope with stress will help in fighting heart diseases. There are many techniques one can learn to manage stress, while some can be self-learned others may need guidance from trained therapists.
Some common techniques for coping with stress include:
- Drink and eat sensibly. Misusing food & alcohol will add to more stress.
- Learn to say “NO”. You don’t have to burden yourself with stress to meet others’ expectations or demands. It’s essential to stand for your rights and peace of mind while respecting those of others.
- Nicotine from cigarettes incites more stress symptoms as it is a stimulant. Apart from various health risks, smoking adds to stress. So, stop smoking.
- Regular exercises help in releasing endorphins (chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain). So, keep exercising to relieve stress.
- Learn to relax every day by doing yoga, breathing exercises, listening to music or participating in social events or causes.
- You can’t control everything around you, but you can control your own actions. Take responsibility for your actions.
- Reduce or avoid the reasons for stress. Learn to manage time, ask for help when required, set achievable priorities and take time out for yourself.
- You cannot be 100% successful at once. Set achievable goals and expectations.
- Always maintain healthy self-esteem.
- Make sure to get enough rest. The body needs time to recover from exercise or stressful events. Proper rest is very essential to wade off stress.
When in stress, calm yourself down. Stressful situations do not need unhealthy alternatives. Adopt a healthy way of dealing with stress always.
Dr. Nagamalesh | Senior Consultant – Cardiology – Adult, Heart Transplant | M S Ramaiah Narayana Heart Centre, Ramaiah Nagar, Bangalore