You’re sitting in traffic already late for work, thinking about how much paperwork you need to catch up on because of the new data policy at work. Your watch is berating you for not doing enough steps, you just got a text saying the family dog needs the vet, you’ve forgotten to pay your water bill again, Donald Trump has just tweeted again and to top it off someone’s just pulled out in front of you. Sound familiar? These days we are all under increasing pressure and it’s easy to feel snowed under. No wonder stress is fast becoming one of the UK’s biggest contributing health problems.
How do I know I’m too stressed?
These are some of the common symptoms of excess stress:
• Often feeling irritable and anxious.
• Finding it hard to concentrate.
• Difficulty with making decisions.
• Problems sleeping.
• Getting frequent headaches.
• Being snappier with people around you or avoiding them altogether.
• Feeling tired all the time.
• Gaining weight.
Sound familiar at all? You might be under too much stress, read on.
Stress dates back a long time
Firstly, I should point out that stress is a natural reaction. Dating back to prehistoric times, our bodies have dealt with problems with a “fight or flight response”. In response to perceived threats, we release two important stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. These act together to increase blood pressure and heart rate. Blood is diverted from unnecessary functions like your gut to muscle tissue and glucose is pulled into the bloodstream. Now this is perfect when you have an enraged rhinoceros at your heels but not so much for the daily office grind. Long term chronic activation of stress pathways can lead to a smorgasbord of health problems.
Stress will make you fat
As glucose is extracted from body cells to divert to muscle cells, powerful hunger signals make us crave more sugar. Junk food vendors and fast food chains have made a killing on this boom of carbohydrate consumption and as our lives become more and more stressful, theyre revenue streams are safe. The effects of unwanted cortisol can wreak havoc on your metabolism, making you hungry at the wrong times leading to fat gain. So the next time you miss your next weekly slimming world weight in, you can partially blame that new audit deadline at work.
Stress can shrink your brain
Long term stress causes a physical reduction in the size of your pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for social interaction and concentration . Recent evidence shows that increased stress levels lead to depression and higher risk of mental illness down the line, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia  .
Stress makes you look bad
Cortisol release is linked to numerous skin problems like eczema, acne and dermatitis .
Stressing makes you older
Chronic stress levels have been shown to do significant damage to your DNA, decreasing telomere length. This is a leading factor in cellular ageing .
Stress affects the bedroom
Stress has shown to be a leading cause of performance problems such as erectile dysfunction in men.  This is likely due in part to the testosterone lowering effects of cortisol. Meaning stress can wreck havoc not only on your own health, but also your relationships.
At times when stress can’t be avoided, medication can be a sensible option. To find out more about the different treatments available check out my article: Comparison of ED Treatments.
For the female readers (I didn’t forget about you), stress can also have a negative effect on your libido. Exactly why this happens isn’t fully understood.
Stress can even kill you!
Chronic stress levels lead to increased blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension. Increased blood pressure has been widely shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular events like stroke and heart attacks  .
Take Charge! 7 Ways to Cut Down On Stress
But don’t worry, the best place to start is to take control of the situation. Rather than letting things overwhelm you, take active steps to make a change.
Become aware of the severity of the problem and take initiative– stressing over day to day things is not only unhelpful but also bad for you! Make a clear decision to cut down on stress in your life and take on a positive attitude.
Be Active– Join a gym, sports club, go running, anything active you enjoy. Exercise will help to clear your mind an offset a lot of the negative effects of stress.
See Friends– Relationships are important. Make sure you you’re spending time with the people that are important to you.
Set Goals– Challenge yourself, try learning a new language, a fitness goal, or start a new hobby. Whatever floats your boat!
Try Meditation– Seriously, give it a try. Mindfulness meditation is well proven to reduce stress-related health problems and help focus  and is now officially recommended by the NHS for certain conditions. Find out more: NHS on Mindfullness. I was skeptical at first, but it really works!
Cut out bad habits– Alcohol, recreational drugs, excessive coffee, and tobacco. These will only make things worse in the long run. There is support available if you are finding it difficult to quit any of these habits, just ask.
Speak to a doctor or pharmacist (if necessary)– Over the counter options are limited to herbal-based medication such a Calms and Rescue remedy. While they can be useful for some, I don’t tend to recommend these for my patients as there is not enough evidence to support their use and risk of further side effects. There are stronger prescription medications available, but you will need to consult a doctor to make sure these are safe for you to take.
Enjoy the benefits of less stress and longer life!
If you have any further questions, feel free to speak to one of our experienced pharmacists anytime at e-Surgery.com. They know their stuff!
If you’d like more information and tips on reducing your stress levels:
- Hair cortisol concentrations exhibit a positive association with salivary cortisol profiles and are increased in obese prepubertal girls.
- Stress and glucocorticoids promote oligodendrogenesis in the adult hippocampus.
- Evaluation of Models of Parkinson’s Disease.
- Wester, V.L. and E.F. van Rossum, Clinical applications of cortisol measurements in hair.
- Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress.
- Sexual dysfunction in the United States: prevalence and predictors.
- Spruill, T.M., Chronic psychosocial stress and hypertension.
- Blood pressure variability and cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Mindfulness Meditation Targets Transdiagnostic Symptoms Implicated in Stress-Related Disorders: Understanding Relationships between Changes in Mindfulness, Sleep Quality, and Physical Symptoms.