By FRANCIS EZEDIUNO
A psychiatrist has opined that there are many factors in the life of an average human being that can cause stress, adding that it is a natural reaction as the body tries to deal with any negative pressure placed on or around it.
The psychiatrist, Dr. Ore Olagunju stated this during a health sensitisation workshop organised for ministers, workers and members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, House of Glory Zone, Oshogbo recently.
While delivering a paper titled: “I FEEL STRESSED, Signs, Causes and How to deal with stress”, the physician noted that factors like work deadlines, financial troubles, congested traffic, and at times arguments could cause stress.
According to him, “stress can become a problem when these pressures become overwhelming, and in some cases, can be a precursor to anxiety disorders and depression.
“Thankfully, stress is very manageable, and a little stress can even help a person to perform better. This is often seen in students when studying for examinations or in athletes as they prepare for any sporting competition.
“There are many ways to deal with stress, and simple techniques practiced frequently can really help”.
While explaining what stress was, Olagunju hinted that it can be defined as a response of the body to any demand placed on it which can be influenced by both external and internal factors.
Examples of external factors include: work, relationships and finances. Internal factors such as health, hunger and amount of sleep can affect how people deal with situations in which they might otherwise have dealt with competently.
“In other words, stress is a normal human experience and can be useful when dealing with demanding situations”.
He explained that the body deals with acute stress by releasing chemicals that tell the body that it is in danger, and therefore activates the flight or fight response.
This response according to him “is a survival mechanism that prepares the body to face danger and changes seen during this response include increased heart rate, rapid breathing, dry mouth and sweating. This response does not have any long-term effects on the body, and often can help in dealing with stressors. Stress, in many instances, can be useful, and help the person deal with the demands placed on them, by making them more alert, energised, and attuned to external cues.
“However, long term exposure to stress, and the exposure of the body to high levels of hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, can lead to increased vulnerability to illnesses, such as depression, obesity, heart disease”.
He maintained that the symptoms of stress can vary between different individuals, saying, the most common symptoms includes sleep disturbances, muscle tension, irritability, anxiety, depression, tiredness, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, change in eating habits, increased use of alcohol or other drugs, unhealthy eating and decreased level of exercise, adding that the symptoms in turn, affect how people deal with the events that cause stress, thereby worsening the stress.
While discussing on the causes of stress, Dr. Olagunju related that certain life situations were more likely to predispose a person to experience stress.
He revealed that surveys have found out that mothers who worked full time had the highest stress levels in the populations surveyed and other situations that could lead to stress were financial pressures, unemployment, work stress, lower education, social isolation, conflict, personal/family illness, and relationship problems.
“The loss of a job may be viewed as a disaster that affects feelings and behaviour. Alternatively, it may be viewed as an opportunity to move on to something better. The manner in which this event is viewed explains the different responses that people have to the same event. Other factors such as personality and previous experience also influence how the event is perceived. Another factor that leads to stress is a mismatch between the experience and the resources available to cope with it. Losing a job, for example, might be a difficult event, but if a person is having difficulties with a relationship in addition to this, then they might not have the support to get through a difficult period, emotionally and financially”.
“Dealing with stress by using various techniques, such as monitoring and challenging the way you think about events and solving your problems in a structured manner. In addition to this exercising, cutting down on drug and alcohol use, and doing things you enjoy can help in coping with stress”.
He however warned that in cases where severe stress leads to depression or anxiety, medications such as anti-depressants might have a role to play.
It would be best to consult your local doctor in such cases, as they will be able to advise you on the suitability of medication, or to direct you to an appropriate professional, Olagunju advised.
Highlight of the programme was the screening for HIV, blood pressure measurement and Hepatitis B screening for members.
One of the technicians who was part of the team emphasized the importance of the screening and noted that it was important to know ones status.
She noted that the HIV screening did not mean that they were living a life of immorality and the negative results that many got did not mean that they should also go ahead and lead a careless life but it was done as a type of precautionary and awareness campaign.
She also explained, knowing ones status in terms of HIV and Hepatitis B will go a long way in determining the health condition as HIV and Hepatitis B were both viral conditions which when left untreated could result in the death of the patients but if treated the patient could lead a normal healthy life.
“High blood pressure is a silent killer which does not respect age, gender or social status. It could be hereditary of environmentally linked, so it is advisable to have blood pressure check every now and then preferably at 2 weeks interval.
“Many people have dropped dead suddenly and we attribute it to spiritual factors but a cursory will later revealed the cause of the death as a result of complications due to high blood pressure. There are no specific symptoms for it but it always result in stroke, heart failure, arterial blockage, paralysis and lastly death if not properly diagnosed and treated”.