Stress Can Cause Bigger Health Problems if not Well Managed —- Dr. Musa Danjuma
Zainab Tanimu –Kaduna, NIGERIA
WHAT IS STRESS?
problems Stress can be your response to the demands of everyday life. Stress is not always a bad thing. In fact, the right amount of stress motivates you to be alert, full of energy and focused on your world. But, too much stress can be harmful to your health. It can cause you to feel tense, anxious, irritable or overwhelmed.
Both your mind and body play a role in your response to stress. First, your thoughts and emotions set the stage for how much stress you experience. Your body then reacts to stress by increasing your muscle tension, heart rate and blood pressure. Over time, these changes can cause bigger health.
IS STRESS A DISEASE?
Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body. Until now, it has not been clear exactly how stress influences disease and health. Now, researchers have found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. The research shows for the first time that the effects of psychological stress on the body’s ability to regulate inflammation can promote the development and progression of disease. If you’re chronically stressed, the part of the brain that controls the stress response is going to be constantly pumping out a lot of stress hormones.
The key to managing stress in your life is to understand the causes of your stress and, then learn how to manage it.
A medical expert, Dr. Musa Danjuma, in an interview with News Reservoir educates us more on stress and how to manage it.
Could you explain further on stress? What do you mean by stress, because people often ask the question whether stress is a disease or not?
Stress is defined as an internal or external factor that threatens the equilibrium of an individual. What we mean by equilibrium is your normal stable condition. This could be physical, maybe the physical environment or whatever you are doing or your emotional situation or maybe mental strain resulting from mismatch between an individual and his or her environment
How do you mean?
You see, we have what we call stressors. Stressors are things that bring about stress. The human body responds to stressors by activating the nervous system and specific hormones. Both negative and positive stressors can lead to stress.
We have three major types of stressors. We have frustration, conflicts and we have pressure.
Frustrations are obstacles that prevent you from meeting your needs or achieving personal goals. This could be external or internal frustration. When we are talking of external, we talk of ‘discrimination’. Take the case of one seeking for a job for instance and is being discriminated against on the basis of religion, tribe or sex. Frustration could be as a result of an unsatisfying job, divorce or the death of a loved one. All these are external factors that could lead to stress.
Internal factors are such situations like that of physical disability, like a sicklier prevented from going to school, the lack of a desired ability or trait, and other real or perceived personal limitations.
Stressors involving two or more incompatible needs or goals are known as conflicts. Sometimes the conflict involves a choice between two desirable options, such as deciding between two acceptance offers from equally appealing colleges. A mother for example gets a job to advance her career but because of trying to meet family matters she has a conflict of taking it. These are stressors. At other times, the decision involves disagreeable alternatives.
Stress can stem from the expectations of others or the demands you place on yourself. You may feel pressure to get good grades to satisfy your parents or you wanting to be a perfect mother and you start looking for a good school for your child that has done well. Or you may feel pressure to excel at work or make a difference in your community.
Over bullying and the type of personality the person has can lead to stress. For example, you are persistent, you are pessimistic, you are afraid or you are handicap yourself.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF STRESS?
There is what we call ‘wear and tear’ in the body. If you have stress, you are bound to have ‘wear and tears’ and you would release some immunes that makes you tensed up. It tells on one’s behavior. A person for example who is pessimistic, you are always in a hurry to do your work. You would not do it orderly. You are bound to make mistakes. The correctness or orderliness of the work is in disarray. Those are some of the things that happen.
What are the Symptoms of stress?
There are general symptoms that you look out for in stress. I want to categorize it into what is called the mind. That is the emotional symptoms.
The emotional symptoms are such things like one having moody change, hypersensitive, you are depressed, always angry and lack of concentration. All these have something to do with one’s emotion and are symptoms of stress.
From the mind, you talk of poor memory, you have confusion, the person is highly irritable, prone to poor judgment and dysfunction. These are the things but generally from the physical aspect, the patient might feel headache, digestive problem, urinary problem, muscle tension and even have sleep disorder whereby either sleep less or too much. Sometimes you see them grinding their teeth. It is a form of response to stress.
Could you mention the types of stress we have?
We have the acute type.
It is short term. Acute stress doesn’t have enough time to do the extensive damage associated with long-term stress. It can crop up in anyone’s life, and it is highly treatable and manageable.
The most common symptoms are:
EMOTIONAL DISTRESS–some combination of anger or irritability, anxiety, and depression, the three stress emotions;
MUSCULAR PROBLEMS including tension headache, back pain, jaw pain, and the muscular tensions that lead to pulled muscles and tendon and ligament problems;
STOMACH, GUT AND BOWEL PROBLEMS such as heartburn, acid stomach, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome;
TRANSIENT OVER AROUSAL leads to elevation in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, heart palpitations, dizziness, migraine headaches, cold hands or feet, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
The second type is the Episodic Acute stress.
EPISODIC ACUTE STRESS
This is a stress that has gone beyond the acute form. It is now being persistent than the acute stress. These are people whose lives are so disordered that they are always in chaos and crisis. They’re always in a rush, but always late. They take on too much, have too many irons in the fire, and can’t organize themselves.
Over aroused, short-tempered, irritable, anxious, and tense. Often, they describe themselves as having “a lot of nervous energy.” Always in a hurry, they tend to be abrupt, and sometimes their irritability comes across as hostility. Interpersonal relationships deteriorate rapidly when others respond with real hostility. The workplace becomes a very stressful place for them.
Chronic stress is unrelenting demands and pressures for seemingly interminable periods of time.
It wears you down day after day and year after year, with no visible escape. It grinds away at both mental and physical health, leading to breakdown and even death.
Then there is what we call perfectionism, somebody that wants to perfect everything. You want to be a perfect person. It is a form of stress. Someone they bully around and harass. This is a type of chronic stress.
Common causes of chronic stress include, Poverty and financial worries, Long-term unemployment, Dysfunctional family relationships, Caring for a chronically ill family member, Feeling trapped in unhealthy relationships or career choices, Living in an area besieged by war or violence, Bullying or harassment Perfectionism
We also have the traumatic stress. Traumatic stress is like you go to an environment where a stress occurred or an event occurred or nightmares, and you begin to have a flashback. That is what we refer to as traumatic stress.
Take an example of someone who had been raped, getting to that environment where the rape occurred, it would seem as if that incidence wants to reoccur again. It has to do with a reminder of a bad experience. An accident victim can also go through such a trauma. That is the stress that such person would be going through. A bad experience can provoke such stress.
We have been hearing about executive stress. What is this all about?
Executive Stress is a form of chronic stress that affects some category of people. These are people in the executive positions .Pressure of meeting up with the workload in the office which demands staying longer in the office for
meetings, attend to administrative work and still need to take care of family matters when you get home. While other people are resting in their homes, you are still carrying that pressure on yourself. That is what is meant by executive pressure.
However, if stress persists and is of excessive degree, it eventually leads to a need for resolution, which may lead to either to anxious (escape) or depressive (withdrawal) behavior.
Is stress limited to a particular age-group?
No it is not limited to a particular age group. Anybody of any age can have stress. Pressure can be from childhood once the child becomes wise. As you go through life, the things you feel stressed about change. As parents, you want them to achieve something and they want to impress you. Adults are just discounting your stress because they can’t relate to it.
Children and teens can have extreme reactions to trauma but their symptoms may not be the same as adults. However those prone to stress includes the hypertensive, diabetic, including old age persons that need lots of care.
Is there any connection between stress and stroke?
From the causes yes, but in terms of the manifestation they are two different things. When we talk of stroke, there is the inability for one to move part of the body. Either one cannot move the leg or the hand or the person is blind. If one has partial stroke, he /she cannot talk well. The voice changes but in stress, these are not there. You are physically fit but you are over reacting or less reactive to environmental situations.
But can stress lead to stroke?
Yes, stress can lead to stroke. When you stress yourself too much, hypertensive person can be in a situation that can lead to uncontrolled hypertension and get stroke from the hypertension.
Can the case of high Blood Pressure (BP) be attributed to stress?
Yes. It can be attributed to stress because when we want to manage stress, there can be situation that we avoid, accept, alter or even situation that we need to just adapt. Those are the ways you can manage stress. The situation that you cannot change, you have to adapt to it or accept it. While situation that you can change, you try to avoid it or try to alter it. So, we call it ‘four A’s of the management of stress. Like things that you cannot change, for instance recession, you just try to adapt to the situation and accept the situation as it is.
One of the healthy ways to manage stress is exercising regularly, take balance diet, get a lot of relaxation, listen to music, and watch films. Meet friends of your age group and discuss interesting things that you love. Go on excursion and try to see nature.
Excursion? What if there is no money?
(Laughs) Where there is no money, you can meditate. If you are a Muslim or a Christian, try and meditate a lot. It would help you in taking care of a stressful situation. Even dancing can release stress.
Try and Sleep well. A child of 0-5yrs old needs up to 12 to 16hrs of sleep a day while from the ages of 5-15,16yrs, you sleep like 10-12hrs but from the adult age, is 6-8hrs. That is the normal sleep. These are healthy way of managing stress.
The unhealthy way where people usually go into smoking, go into alcoholism, womanizing become drug addicted and withdrawing from friends gets you more depressed and trying to procrastinate too much is not helpful.
Where stress enhances function (physical or mental) it may be considered good stress.
You are a doctor and at the same time a husband, how would you advise couples considering the harsh situation families are going through in order not to be stressed up? .
What l would advise is that whenever there is conflict of interest, try and dialogue. It would help both of you to understand from the point of view of your partner. Understanding each other is very key.