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Stress is Killing You

It's Stress Awareness Day -a good time to check if your body's been firing out SOS messages in the form of symptoms. If so, you can take these steps to control it!

Tim Hipgrave, an emotional health expert, lists some signs that may indicate that you're stressed, even if you haven't consciously realised that this is the case. He also shares what you can do to calm down.

You're appetite has increased or decreased

If there's one thing that's sure to wreak havoc on your body even if it's brought on by the very best of intentions, it's stress. One reason is that stressed people are often short on time, and, when you're in a rush, readily available unhealthy foods seem like a good, quick solution.

“People who are in a stressed state may lose their appetite in the short term. This is because a part of the brain called the hypothalamus produces a hormone which suppresses appetite,“ says Tim. “But people who are stressed for a long period of time release cortisol, which increases your appetite -especially for sweet, starchy foods.This is where the term `stress-eating' comes from.“

You're feeling tired

“Stress has a physiological effect on your body, by releasing hormones into your bloodstream that accelerate your heart rate and breathing,“ explains Tim.

“This strain on your system can have an exhausting effect, leaving you feeling tired all the time.“

Besides, stress can also make it harder to get a proper night's sleep because it activates a part of the brain responsible for sleep wake regulation.

You've lost your libido

You've probably noticed that sex is the last thing you fancy. “In order for sexual desire to function properly, your neurological pathways and hormone balance need to be in sync,“ says Tim. “When you're stressed, your body releases hormones that interfere with this balance and can lead to a decline in your libido.“

You feel panicky

There's another downside to these pesky stress hormones: an increased heart rate, coupled with shortness of breath, can lead to feelings of anxiety, or even a panic attack. “You may even hyperventilate as you struggle for breath,“ explains Tim.“Hyperventilation can usually be resolved by removing yourself from the situation and actively trying to slow your breathing down.“

You're getting ill easily

Stress has some very real effects on our overall health, as it suppresses the immune system. So, if you find you're catching colds easily, or can't shake them off, it may be because you have a weakened immune system. “When we're stressed, we release cortisol into our bloodstream, which blocks helpful hormones, so our immune system can begin to really suffer,“ says Tim.

This is what you can do to bust stress

Never suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor to discuss options, and make sure you let your nearest and dearest know that you're struggling. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to look after yourself.

Rest “Rest is just as important as exercise, because sleep affords the body a chance to recharge,“ explains Tim. “Without it, we feel less productive, have lower energy levels and poor concentration levels.“

Try to get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night, and limit caffeine and alcohol, as they are known to increase stress hormones in our body. These hormones interfere with the quality of sleep one gets and also reduce the body's ability to recover.

Brain games Challenging yourself mentally can have a surprising effect on your levels of positivity. “Exercising our psyche encourages the growth of new cells, keeping our minds healthy,“ says Tim. “Stimulating our brains with activities such as puzzles and crosswords or learning a new hobby or skill can also contribute to mental fitness.“

Mindfulness “Stress and anxiety are often caused by focusing too much on past events, or worrying about the future -both of which are out of our control,“ explains Tim. “By using techniques such as meditation and breathing, we can help to manage our emotions in a more efficient way and get back to feeling our best.“

Your local library should carry a beginner's guide to mindfulness, or you could try downloading a meditation app to learn the basics.

Find balance in your life. Maintaining a good balance of slog and downtime is essential in order to keep stress levels under control.

“When we make time for ourselves and do things we enjoy, we're more productive in all areas of our lives,“ says Tim. “It's important to take regular recesses from the daily grind, or get away from your grumpy husband.“

“Taking breaks at work also helps with fitting in another stress buster: exercise. Moderate and regular exercise will break down stress hormones and promote the release of mood-enhancing hormones, helping to reduce tension and calm your nerves.“


Stress is killing you

In June last year the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India (ASSOCHAM) released a report that stated that around 45.5 per cent of corporate employees in India suffer from depression or general anxiety. “Almost 60 to 65 per cent of executives are suffering from stress-related diseases,“ said Mr D S Rawat, Secretary General ASSOCHAM. Their survey also showed that nearly 40.5 per cent of corporate employees in metros sleep for less than six hours a day due to stress, and that this causes other health problems.