Everyone is susceptible to a stressful day at work or a rough patch in your home life. However, if people start to ask you what’s wrong because you don’t seem like yourself, or you find yourself unable to sleep through the night without waking up at 3 a.m. and worrying about that presentation at work or having very little energy throughout the day, then you have a problem far greater than you think.
I’d say about a third of my practice is the management of stress and anxiety. It’s very prevalent. It really affects every aspect of my practice. Stress aggravates hypertension. It changes people’s diets, which affects their cholesterol. It creates obesity because people overeat. It creates debt because people overspend.
Stress also causes biological changes in your body that can leave you feeling drained unnecessarily. When you are stressed, your body produces adrenaline. If you stay stressed, your body can deplete its supply of adrenaline, which can leave you with a constant feeling of fatigue.
See the Signs
In addition to the middle-of-the-night worry sessions or the all-too-frequent bad moods, stress can also be the cause of drastic changes in appetite. Whether you suddenly are overeating or not eating at all, stress could be the reason.
Another big thing I see a lot this time of year is hypersomnia – or sleeping too much. Are you finding that your to-do list just gets longer and longer because you aren’t scratching anything off? You just can’t find the time to get things done, but you can find time to sleep in or take lengthy, frequent naps? It can get overwhelming.
I always tell my patients that there is a little voice inside you. When that voice is talking to you and telling you things aren’t right, you should listen to it. The ability to listen to that and be in touch with what your inner voice is telling you is really important.
Identify the problem
Once you have identified that you have some of these warning signs that stress is about to get the better of you, you have to identify what part of your life is out of sync. Are you upset with your wife because she’s working too much? Are you aggravated with a child who isn’t making good grades?
Having made that identity, see what you can do to change it. If your son is failing school, you need to sit down and study with him two hours every night.
Around the holidays, the number-one source of stress is family. The holidays force us to be in situations where we have to deal with interacting with family that we may not have to be around the rest of the year. You get stressed worrying about hurting someone’s feelings.
I say you have to have integrity, honesty and vulnerability. It’s too easy to let guilt keep you from these three things, but your health is depending on you. You have to be able to face that uncle by saying, “when you come to my house you drink too much and create drama that upsets everyone and I don’t want you do that if you come to my house.”
The best thing you can do is be honest. It’s not easy to do in many cases, because you may have to deal with the repercussions. But it might also solve the problem, too.
ID the problem
The first step in fixing the source of the stress is to identify it and then change the problem. You have to see what you are willing to do to make a change. If not, what else can you give into? I maybe can’t spend two hours every night studying with my son who is failing high school, but I can hire a tutor. If I feel like my wife is working too much, maybe she can’t quit her job, but maybe I can turn off the football game on Sunday and spend more time with her while she’s home.
Another big fix that a lot of people have to face is that all too often, you need to stop drinking alcohol. Changing bad habits into healthier habits will give your body a break. There are people who can have one drink and stop. To some people, asking them to only have one drink is like putting a bowl of M&Ms in front of them and saying, “you can only have three.” It’ll never happen.
So if you are one of those people and you find you can’t limit yourself and before you know it you are slurring your words, my advice is to not drink at all.
Find someone you trust to talk to about what’s stressing you out. Whether it’s prayer, which I tell people is the cheapest form of counseling we have in the market today, or a good friend who will listen to what you have on your mind. Sometimes being a good listener for someone else makes you sort of reorient the way you look at your own life.
In my opinion, medications are the last resort, but are always available. There are some that are safe and affordable for treating depression and anxiety, but I never want to just medicate the problem if a patient hasn’t tried some of these other options first. Because all too often identifying the source of the stress and then talking it out and making a decision to change will fix the problem.
You’re not alone
I had someone tell me once that our society is full of “human doings” instead of a “human beings.” We measure our worth by what we do, but we are beings. We should focus on our quality of life, not the quantity of our deeds. That’s an important underlying theme among most people who have stress-induced health issues.
About Dr. Williams, D.O.
Arthur Williams, D.O., is board-certified in Family Medicine and is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians. His Williamson Medical Group office is located in Franklin and can be reached by calling (615) 435-7780.Share this Article