You’re sitting in traffic already late for work, thinking about how much paperwork you need to catch up on. Your watch is berating you for not doing enough steps, and you’ve just got a text saying the family dog needs the vet. Does this list of tasks 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.
These are some of the common symptoms of excess stress:
Sound familiar at all? You might be under too much stress, read on.
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.
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 as our lives become more and more stressful. 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 weekly slimming world weigh-in, you can partially blame that new audit deadline at work.
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 a higher risk of mental illness down the line, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia  .
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 has been 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 wreak havoc not only on your own health but also on your relationships.
At times when stress can’t be avoided, medication can be a sensible option to help ED. 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.
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  .
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 and offset a lot of the negative effects of stress.
See Friends– Relationships are important. Make sure 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 sceptical 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 as 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.
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: