Stress: the Unspoken Epidemic and How it’s Affecting us Today

Crystal Masih, Staff Writer

Do you often find that you are always stressed about something? Whether it be an upcoming test, your team’s game against that really good team, family problems at home, or simply not feeling good enough? Stress is almost certainly a big part of our daily lives. If this describes you, don’t worry, you are not alone. In fact, you may even find that stress is a good motivator for many things. However, just like any good thing, too much of it is not positive.

I’ve learned a lot about stress in my Structures & Functions of the Human Body and Foundations of Medicine classes. What they’ve taught me is that everything you feel, good or bad, affects the body significantly. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on your body.” The most common areas of impact according to APA include: headaches/migraines, muscle tension around the neck and shoulder areas, panic attacks, hyperventilation, fatigue, and irregular period cycles in females.

But don’t worry, there are a number of ways to manage stress and the impact it has on your body. According to Sutter Health, a not-for-profit health organization, using coping strategies can significantly help reduce stress and the impact it has on your body. Some of these strategies include: planning better, which could include using a planner to organize your daily tasks, taking naps, which is important because stress often causes you to sleep less, and taking breaks during your day, which help to give your mind and body a pause. Additional things you can do is make sure to talk and stay connected to others because when you socialize with others it helps to alleviate stress, and finding ways to exercise as moving your body on a regular basis balances the nervous system and increases blood circulation. Another technique that is important is maintaining a healthy diet because when confronted with a stressor, the central nervous system releases adrenaline and cortisol, which affects the digestive tract by either killing the appetite or causing fat and sugar cravings.

While people can learn to manage their stress and take action to help counter it, there are some instances where seeking medical attention or professional support or advice is important. These include prolonged versions of the symptoms stated above like continued inconsistent period cycles, as well as panic attacks or hyperventilation. In instances such as these, people should seek medical attention. Perhaps the most important aspect of this is being aware of it happening to yourself or someone you are close to. If you or someone you know are experiencing severe symptoms associated with stress or think you or they are, take the time to assess where you or they are at and take appropriate steps to insure good health.