By Dr. Janet Seabrook
April is National Stress Awareness Month. I am so glad this designation exists because I have encountered many who don’t realize they are stressed until there is a medical concern. Work, spouse, family and an entire laundry list of other life obligations can wear us thin, and we still keep it moving, ignoring the signs!
Let’s take the time to explore the symptoms before your stress levels get out of hand.
Stress is defined as a normal reaction the body has when changes occur, resulting in physical, emotional and intellectual responses. The pandemic is a perfect example of major change occurring. We were all forced to suddenly adjust to a new way of interacting, from wearing masks and social distancing to conducting virtual gatherings and quarantining. Can you say “STRESSFUL?”
Here are a few signs of stress:
- Aches and pains.
- Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing.
- Exhaustion or trouble sleeping.
- Headaches, dizziness or shaking.
- High blood pressure.
- Muscle tension or jaw clenching.
- Stomach or digestive problems.
Now I don’t want you to panic after reading the above list. We all have probably experienced any one of these symptoms at a given time. However, if they persist, further investigation is needed.
It is also important to be able to distinguish the difference between “good” and “bad” stress.
Good stress can be motivational, keep us alert and even help us avoid danger. For example, if you are anxious about an upcoming job interview, good stress may help you prepare more to ensure that you are ready for the big day. Bad stress is when your signs and symptoms never seem to subside and there is no point of relief or relaxation.
While there are thousands of medical websites and all types of online resources, never attempt to self-diagnose that you are stressed. If any of the above symptoms persist, be sure to make an appointment with your physician. There may be something else going in addition to, or other than stress.
In the meantime, a healthy diet, rest and exercise are all great ways to regulate stress levels. Be deliberate in booking regular down time for YOU! It will make all the difference when stressful situations arise. Your health matters!
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