Stressed out?

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Stressful situations can result from high demands or expectations - Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

A quick dive into what STRESS means, and how you can manage it!

Pressured to perform at school? Managing timelines at work? People handling. Keeping the peace within the family. Everything is interconnected, and there are so many ways in managing and reducing stress in your life. Everyone is different too, so while some people may react explosively, others may simply laugh it off, run a marathon or resort to a quieter method be it through prayer, medication or mindfulness. Stress can arise from anything or anyone who places a high demand or expectation from you.

“Stress, if adapted can motivate us every day in our daily life”, – MYHEALTH

In an article excerpt from Ministry of Health of Malaysia MyHealth website, writers Prof. Madya Dr. Alvin Ng Lai Oon suggests that stress can be good or bad. He writes, “We need stress to survive. Stress, if adapted can motivate us every day in our daily life. Through stressful situations, we develop abilities to adapt, cope and respond to life’s demands. On the other hand, stress is bad when we are not able to manage it properly or when we view it negatively. Poor stress management leads to feeling out of control which in turn will lead to other unhealthy coping strategies,”.

According to a journal by Harajyoti, Dipankar, Lipika and Nabanita (2012) – “Comparative Study on Stress and Contributing Factors Among Graduate and Graduate Students”, stress factors were found to be behavioural, psychological and psychosomatic. In terms of behaviour, the study suggests that stress is caused by instability in relationships. The psychological aspects are where stress stems from from anger, low self-esteem, depression where all of it seems to be related to emotional disturbance. In psychosomatic terms, factors such as headache, sleep problems, ulcers and high blood pressure tend to cause stress and pressure. 

In the study, they found that females show often more symptoms in anxiety, back pain, neck pain, appetite and skin rashes. The report also said that there were studies that suggest that the inability to adapt to stress is associated with the onset of depression or anxiety. In one study, two-thirds of subjects who experienced a stressful situation had nearly six times the risk of developing depression within a month of experiencing stressful events. Some evidence suggests that repeated release of stress hormone produce hyperactivity in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gain and disrupts normal level of serotonin, the nerve chemical that is critical for feeling of well being. Certainly, stress diminishes quality of life reducing feeling of pleasure and accomplishment
and relationship are often threatened. The data was derived from a sample pool of 250 participants comprising of students and post-graduate students.

University of Puerto Rico’s Michael J. Gonzalez & Jorge R. Miranda-Massari (2014) published “Diet and Stress”. Here’s an excerpt from the report:
Stress happens in 3 stages. The first is an initial state of alarm (fight or flight response), which produces an increase of adrenaline. Living organisms can withstand
occasional extreme stress and still survive. The second stage is a short-term resistance mechanism that the body sets up to cope with the problem. The final stage is a state of exhaustion. The exhaustion stage occurs when the body has used up all
its available resources. If the situation is not taken care of, stress can produce long-term damage to the body, including heart problems, high blood pressure, the immune system problems (susceptibility to infections and allergies), skin problems (acne, itchy
rashes, psoriasis, and eczema), pain (neck, shoulder and back), diabetes, and infertility.
Stress affects the whole body.

Musculoskeletal System

When muscles are tense for prolonged periods of time, other reactions of the body promote stress-related disorders. Tension headache and migraine headache have been associated with chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck,
and head.

Respiratory System

Stress can make breathing more difficult. For those with asthma or a chronic obstructive disease, getting enough oxygen can become difficult.

Cardiovascular

Repeated acute stress and persistent chronic stress can induce inflammation in the vasculature, especially of the coronary arteries. This is one of the proposed mechanisms associating stress to myocardial infarcts. It addition, it has been shown that the way a person responds to stress can alter cholesterol levels.

Endocrine

Stress affects how the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland and the autonomic nervous system to secrete the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol. The hypothalamus stimulates the adrenal glands cortex to produce cortisol and the adrenal me-
dulla to produce epinephrine. This gives the body the energy to run from danger.
In every stressful situation, there is a solution. Finding the root cause is key. In the next paragraph, we share some tips on the best methods in which you can manage stress in your lives. Remember these 3 letters, E, E & E!

Eat

A balanced diet is based on the “Myplate” of the food set. Eating is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Ever head the term “comfort food”? Nourishment for your mental and physical being comes from the food you meticulously plan throughout the day. Keep your food simple, light and nutritious so it’s easily digestible and keep you from feeling sluggish after lunch.

Stressful situations can increase the acid content in our stomach. Makes one think differently when they say “I have butterflies in my stomach”!

Our team had a very insightful read of Diet & Stress by Michael J. Gonzalez & Jorge R. Miranda-Massari, 2014. Citing the report, “…a food industry that provides main staple foods that are additional stressors (refined carbohydrates, excessive animal fats, artificial colours, preservatives, and sweeteners). Unhealthy eating patterns will only result in an increased level in stress, followed by further health problems in the near future if the issues are not resolved. With a healthy eating plan accompanied with scientific supplementation and a proper stress management program, one can overcome stress, prolong one’s life span, and reduce the likelihood of stress-related illnesses,”

“One of the main problems with on-going stress is the depletion of nutrients. The stress response is fight or flight; either action requires lots of energy. Stress utilizes many nutrients for energy production, even if one sits in front of a computer screen all day,”.
“B vitamins are essential for coping with stress, as they are used in most metabolic enzymes. Substances like sugar, alcohol, and caffeine will drain these resources and affect the functionality of the body and the brain. When under stress, the body uses reserve B vitamins,”.
“Foods can help relieve stress in several ways. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal can boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical,”.

Exercise

For busy executives, you could incorporate some exercise into your day, just as though it were an important appointment. We would suggest a less strenuous routine, that would help you work out a sweat but without stressing your body out too much. 

Ed Haynes, founder and head trainer at a gym in Hong Kong shared that exercise itself stresses your body. So it’s not a good idea to pack physical stress on top of an already stressed body. You can read more about it here.

Rest

A really good rest is penultimate. When you get enough rest, your physical and mental condition is calm, balanced and ready to to make right decisions. Heed this advice. It’s been said, good rest is productivity’s best friend.

Here’s a tip from Dr Lim Li Ling, Consultant Neurologist at the Singapore Neurology & Sleep Centre, Gleneagles Medical Centre and Director, Sleep Disorders Unit, Singapore General Hospital.

Sleep-wake Schedule

Go to bed and get up at about the same time every night and morning respectively, including weekends. Try to have a regular schedule of going to bed and waking up. This will help you to anchor your circadian (“biological”) clock and establish a consistent rhythm of sleep. Read more…

REFERENCES:

  • Stress management by MyHealth. Read more…
  • A Comparative Study on Stress and it’s Contributing Factors among the Graduate and Post-Graduate Students by Harajyoti Mazumdar, Dipankar Gogoi, Lipika Buragohain and Nabanita Haloi. 2012. Read more…
  • Stress dan Kesihatan. Dr Izzat Haznil Bin Ismaal. Pegawai Perubatan PKU UTMKL. Read more…
  • Diet and stress. Michael J Gonzalez and Jorge R Miranda-Massari. 2014. Read more…

This article was written by AsiaFitnessToday.com editorial team with research by Nabila Azamuddin and Nur Nadiah Yazid, UiTM Sports Management faculty.

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