The Stress Trap

It is clear that although we all aim to live unstressed lives and avoid stress wherever possible this is not realistic. Life throws one stress after another at us relentlessly. Therefore rather than falling into the stress trap we need to change our mind sets and focus on accepting the existence of stress as a permanent partner. Rather than succumb to the negative health effects of stress we need learn helpful strategies to prevent stress from obliterating our well-being by affecting our immune function and our adrenal gland activity amongst other mechanisms. You may have heard of the term “adrenal fatigue”. This is not a medical term or condition. It simply describes the effects of chronic stress on adrenal hormone and sympathetic nervous system function and the resulting symptoms and impact on well-being.

imageOur 21st Century obsession with recreational alcohol excess is leading to high rates of dependence. Alcohol is often used as a coping strategy for stress.  Other unhelpful coping strategies for stress include smoking, excessive use of some pain killers and illicit substance use. These are all evil toxic seducers. Rather than helping, they can paradoxically harm health, well-being, relationships and employment. So beware.

Managing stress and anxiety is important for everyone but in people with chronic illness (in particular people with fatigue spectrum illness), health related anxiety can be chronically and relentlessly high. Anxiety is not the cause of fatigue spectrum illness but anxiety can certainly drive fatigue, reduce well-being and act as a catalyst to perpetuate the fatigue cycle.

There are many different ways to approach stress management and anxiety but there are some general themes that tend to be helpful for all.

In-building relaxation strategies into your every day life might seem impossible because of the boom-bust busy world we live in. But it is clear that productivity and well-being are both improved when stress management strategies are applied and relaxation and mindfulness is integral to daily life.

Steve Jobs iconic innovative ideas have been linked to his clear mind an focus enabled by Zen meditation.

“The Chimp paradox”, a recent best seller by Steve Peters is a mind management book which gives a practical guide to acceptance of thoughts and feelings in a mindful way. It has been acclaimed by athletes such as Sir Chris Hoy who have suggested that his career success has been facilitated by mind management strategies as described in “The chimp paradox”. While using these techniques can mean the difference between success and failure in sport and captains of industry, they are equally useful for the rest of us in society who strive to perform well, not only in terms of employment and social and physical function, but also our own inner well-being, vitality and overall quality of life.

Reducing stress is not the panacea for well-being but it is one very important factor. The recipe for wellness needs to have stress management as a major ingredient!

imageRemember humour complements well-being and is a great stress degrader.

 

Dr Annice Mukherjee, Hormone Consultant & Fatigue Expert