Weighing In: Stress will kill you — if you let it

Published on Saturday, 29 March 2014 16:59 - Written by Coshandra Dillard cdillard@tylerpaper.com

In our society, people are often overworked, underpaid, rushed, commuting, studying, trying to get ahead, etc., etc. We’ve probably all been guilty of saying, “Oh, I’m so stressed.”

It’s as if we believe we’re supposed to always be in that state.

Stress is inevitable, but we don’t have to surrender to it.

We can identify when we need to put things in check. I watch people sometimes overreact to the smallest things and wonder how they haven’t stroked out yet.

Stress is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, accelerated aging and premature death.

To put it bluntly, stress will kill you — if you let it.

When stressed, everything is affected: mind, body, behavior and emotions.

In your mind, you began having a negative attitude, you worry or your judgment is off. Emotionally, that can make you fussy, irritable, anxious or even depressed. So you lack drive, crave sugar, overeat and feel fatigued. Altogether, it strains the body. Your immune system function takes a dive so you’re susceptible to infections. Headaches and skin problems may be common, and you’re also at risk for cardiac episodes.

There are plenty of environmental and genetic variables that can lead to our demise and maybe we can’t do much about that. But why add to the things stacked against you by not recognizing the mind and body connection?

I know it’s easier said than done but I think the key is awareness of your body. Notice how often you feel dizzy, irritable, or tired. Look for patterns, take notes if necessary, and then take moments to relax — without some kind of substance. It’s important to make small lifestyle changes that can eliminate or alleviate stress.

Therefore, we should stop looking at deep breathing, meditation, prayer, yoga, acupuncture or whatever people use to reduce stress as quackery.

Dr. Neil Spector — associate professor of medicine and associate professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke Medical Oncology — emphasized the importance of stress reduction when he spoke at the Tyler Breast Cancer Conference last week.

Spector, a heart transplant recipient, said, “I understood my doctors can only do so much for me and the rest of it is diet, exercise and stress reduction.”

As he also pointed out, nobody knows your body better than you do. Pay attention to it so stress won’t get the best of you.