From momentary frustrations to big, overwhelming events, we all face different kinds of stress in our lives. The holidays are upon us and with them brings physical and emotional change, so to help you understand what stress is and how to manage it in the healthiest possible ways, we spoke with board-certified physician, Linda Diedriech, MD.
What is Stress?
“Stress response is the body’s natural reaction to changes in its environment,” explains Dr. Diedriech. “When something changes in your life for better or worse, your body reacts and creates stress. Stress response can be very useful, but it can also have long-term negative consequences to your health.”
When you’re stressed, your body reacts by releasing hormones including adrenaline. Adrenaline affects your body in the following ways:
- Increases blood pressure
- Increases heart rate
- Increases acid production, which can result in indigestion or stomach pain
- Increases muscle tension, which can cause pain
- Creates sleep disturbance, which has a huge impact on your overall physiology and whole health.
“When I talk to patients about their mental health and their stress, I remind them we’re incredibly complex creatures and no two people react to stress in the same way. Stress is an external factor and how we respond to it affects how we feel. Some people respond to the same stress differently than others.”
How to Cope With Stress
“There are a lot of things you can do for yourself,” says Dr. Diedriech. “Exercise is an important way to handle stress. By exercising you release other hormones that work to balance the adrenaline and create a sense of calm.”
Dr. Diedriech also recommends maintaining a proper diet consisting of whole foods. She warns against alcohol and stimulants, as they’re major sleep disruptors. Sleep is extremely important for your whole health. Proper sleep is necessary to maintain the health of your body, mind and spirit.
She also recommends relaxation techniques such as prayer or meditation, and yoga or tai chi. Having someone to talk to such as family, friends, religious leaders, physicians or therapists is also very useful for coping with stress in a healthy way.
“Stress affects all parts of your physiology, including your mood, which affects not only your health, but your overall perception of your health. Stress can make you irritable or socially withdrawn and your social relationships can be affected. So, it’s important to remember to keep in touch with your family and friends when you’re feeling stress. Otherwise, it can create a feedback loop that will leave you withdrawn and anxious.”
If you’re not getting the results you’d like from the relaxation techniques Dr. Diedriech recommends, then you should speak with your primary care provider for alternative solutions.
“What I can do as a physician is prescribe medicines that reduce the symptoms of the mood reactions of stress. These symptoms can be anxiety or depression as well as the physiological effects. Be aware of your symptoms. Early recognition is important for dealing with stress before it becomes a bigger health issue.”
Speak with a Primary Care Provider
If you’re finding your stress has been affecting you negatively and you’d like to speak to Dr. Diedriech about dealing with it, please visit our site or call 727-935-6477 and we’ll help you take back control of your whole health.