As regular and unavoidable as the rain and sun, so are we bound to experience normal hassles and stressors of life. How we choose to respond to these stressors will determine if we end up feeling stressed up or not.
Whenever we are transiently exposed to stressors, our mental faculty triggers of bodily responses.
These responses are targeted towards helping us to adapt to the situation without leaving any adverse effects on our mind and body.
When the exposure becomes chronic or the severity of the transient stressor is too overwhelming, our body defences can give way.
The tendency for illnesses to occur might thereafter, become as regularly unavoidable as the sun and the rain.
Transient stressors include; missing a bus, getting to work late, having a flat tyre and noticing that your spare tyre is also flat, meeting at long queue at the ATM or waiting for Yakubu to officially announce the election results.
Chronic stressors include; a bad job, unfaithful spouse, sick child, personal health challenge, living in a terrible neighbourhood, city or country and bad habits. Some person’s character or personality can also be potential stress.
Stress in our body is manifested with increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, muscle tension and a release of a cascade of body activities targeted towards making more energy available for us to use but eventually insidiously depleting our immunity. The resultant lower immunity also has the potential of making the individual succumb to recurrent infections and persistent lethargy, while the increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular emergencies.
If the stressor is not removed and the individual is not able to overcome the effect of the stress, it can result in chronic mental illness, severe acute health emergencies (life-threatening), or death.
When we encounter stressors, the stress we experience can be good (eustress) or bad (distress). The Eu-stress builds our body defences and prepares us for being able to overcome other challenges that may come. Reading for exams, military drills, bodily exercise and the likes are all forms of stress that the body and mind eventually benefit from. Distress overwhelms and destroys our body defences and weakens us resulting in negative outcomes.
How can you know if you are stressed up?
When you begin to experience poor sleep, not feeling refreshed after sleeping, mood swings, tiredness, headaches, irritable feeling, unexplained sadness, poor appetite and a change in your bowel habits; you need to see a physician. A general health check will reveal any underlying physical or mental health challenges that will need expert intervention. For persons older than 35 years of age, a detailed evaluation of the cardiovascular system as recommended by your physician is vital to ensure that all is well. Cardiovascular challenges account for 9 out of 10 causes of sudden death in Nigeria! Many of these deaths are stress related in spite of the underlying cardiovascular ill-health!!
Stress could also lead to poor concentration, worrying thoughts and poor memory. Some persons transfer their emotional stress into physical symptoms like low back ache and other multiple unexplained symptoms that physical examination and investigations fail to uncover. If you are experiencing any of these, you need to take a break and go for a checkup!!!
Common errors people make when they experience stress
- Ignoring the symptoms- Never ignore any of the above experiences. Visit your doctor ASAP. It is better to be told that there is nothing to worry about and be safe than be sorry later! Some people spend more on maintaining their car than their body. Spend not less than twice of what you spend on your car on your body. Anyone who does this is on the right track towards preventing sudden death.
- Patronizing quacks- When you seek solutions to your health challenges from fake or unqualified persons, you are courting trouble. Quackery is highly prevalent in Nigeria. Highly educated and seemingly knowledgeable persons walk into “chemist’s” of pharmacy shops to pick up medications for headache. That headache might be a warning sign before a “STROKE”. Your own quack might be your “pastor”, “aafaa” or other “Spiritually endowed” persons whose deceit end up delaying your presentation for early diagnosis and treatment of potentially life-threatening conditions.
- Engaging in health risk habits- Some persons indulge in health risk habits like drinking alcohol, drug abuse, self-medication, engaging in arguments or violent outbursts and poor dietary habits. As we age, we need to be more cautious about what goes into and what comes out of us. Control what you say and control your reactions when the situation is not favourable to you. You need lots of energy to be angry! Some of these habits are learnt over many years. Unlearning them is a process which might require the help of a specialist. The first step is actually to truthfully identify them and accept the fact that they have no positive contributions to your wellbeing.
What to do
- Know yourself/Understand yourself- Nobody can know you better than yourself. Know those things that get you worked up. Know those things that make you happy. Practically, you can make two lists. The kinds of stuff you enjoy (that give you positive vibes) and the ones you don’t. Understanding yourself include you knowing your health status and the potential health risks that you have. You might need the help of a health professional towards guiding you to do this. You might also need to know the common health problems in your family. Having family members with medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes, depression etc. definitely increases the risk of you having such an illness.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle- A healthy lifestyle is a positive health and wellbeing approach towards preventing illness and minimizing health risks consciously. It is a whole package of regular health checks, proper diet, regular exercise and positive mental attitude. Choosing to live a healthy life is the best decision anyone can ever make. Investing in the maintenance of your health and wellbeing is the best investment you will ever make for yourself and your loved ones.
Stay Safe and Sane; Help others do the same by staying stress free!!