According to a Bloomberg study conducted in 2015, Nigeria is the most stressful country in the world. Does this surprise anyone? No, not at all. It shouldn't! Stress is synonymous with living in Nigeria and this is evident in our day to day life. From the non-existent power supply, to the poor road networks and never-ending traffic, to the erratic public transportation, the overworked and underpaid low-income earners, high cost of living, the list is endless. I could go on and on! Nigeria indeed is a stressful country to live in.
Did you know that eighty percent of modern diseases has its origin in stress? It's no wonder the life expectancy in Nigeria, is a mere 53 years old compared to 78 years old in more developed countries like the United States. Since stress has a major effect on overall health and wellbeing, it is worth exploring what exactly causes stress and how it can be properly managed to avoid associated ill-health and untimely death.
What is stress? Stress is the reaction people have to excessive pressures or demands placed on them. It is the wear and tear our minds and bodies experience when we attempt to cope with these daily pressures and the environment. Stress feelings tends to arise when the pressure is greater than the resources available, and people worry that they can't cope.
There are two kinds of stress: Positive stress and Negative stress. Positive stress also known as Eustress has a positive effect on people, and is usually for a short period. It's just the right amount of stress that provides the stimulation to cope with challenging situations. Eustress improves alertness and awareness, motivates and improves performance. On the other hand, Negative stress also known as Distress may be for a prolonged period and generally feels unpleasant. Distress occurs when external pressures exceed coping mechanisms and it is a contributing factor to a lot of emotional and mental health disorders as well as physical illnesses.
Some people may experience stress from lack of finances, work-related stress, stress due to chronic illness, stress from death of a loved one, stress from children's school fees, family issues etc. All these external pressures could take a toll on a person and affect overall health and wellbeing. In some cases, it leads to mental instability and therefore needs to be recognized and managed on time. Most of us are stressed and don't even know it. Different people have different manifestations of stress, some may have physical symptoms, while others may have mental or behavioral symptoms. Physical symptoms of stress include insomnia, loss of sexual drive or decrease in sexual performance, prolonged fatigue, chronic headaches and body pains, heart palpitations. Mental Symptoms include depressed state, confusion, decreased memory etc. Emotional and behavioral symptoms include eating disorders, excessive smoking and alcohol intake, restlessness, excessive crying etc.
Stress doesn't just make you feel awful physically and emotionally, it affects almost every organ system in the body and can worsen just about any health condition you can think of. Stress can manifest in any of the following ways:
Skin: Stress causes the release of inflammatory cytokines, this makes the skin more sensitive and reactive and could lead to acne, blisters, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis etc
Musculoskeletal: Stress causes generalized muscle and joint pains. Stress is also considered one of the most common triggers for chronic headaches; not just tension headaches, but migraines as well.
Diabetes: Stress directly raises blood sugar levels which results in hyperglycemia and ultimately Type 2 diabetes. It also encourages bad eating habits which will worsen diabetic condition.
Obesity: Stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol, and excess cortisol increases the amount of fat that's deposited in the abdomen. Excess abdominal fat has been directly linked to increased risk of heart disease.
Heart disease: The heart takes the hardest blow when it comes to affected organ systems. Stress can directly increase heart rate and blood flow, and causes the body to release inflammatory markers in the bloodstream which further worsens heart disease and increases risk of stroke. Stress causes high blood pressure, and prolonged hypertension may result in heart disease and if not managed properly may result in heart attack. Stress increases the risk of heart disease by 40%, increases risk of stroke by 50% and the risk of heart attacks by 25%. People who have chronic heart problems or a history of hypertension should try as much as possible to avoid stressful situations.
Infertility: Stress has been shown to reduce fertility. Chronic stress decreases testosterone production, sperm production and maturation. Stress is also a contributing factor to Erectile Dysfunction in men. Women who are also under a lot of stress experience decreased sexual drive and irregular menstrual cycles which will ultimately lead to fertility problems.
These are just a few ways stress could wreak havoc on a person's health. If you are currently, under a lot of stress, and feel like you can't cope with the demands of daily life, if you are experiencing excessive anxiety or depression due to excessive family or work stress, or any prolonged physical or mental symptoms then it's time to get help! You should visit your doctor who would rule out any underlying medical condition. After ruling out medical causes, the doctor would look for an underlying stressor that could be the source of your stress symptoms. There are medications available that could help manage symptoms. There are also some simple stress management techniques that might help you better manage your stress.
Exercise is one of the most effective stress relievers and is a great way to release the body's pent up frustrations. Stress management is all about taking charge of your life and the way you deal with problems and it's important to seek which stress management techniques would best work for you in order to live a happier, healthier and balanced life.
Disclaimer: The medical information provided on here by Dr. Nini Iyizoba is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.