Does your day begin with stress? Do you have a mad dash to get the kids to school and yourself to work? Does your stress level only increase from this point? What is this stress doing to you?
The first stress of the day gets the muscles tense, the heart racing, and the blood pressure up. Your breathing pattern increases while your stomach tightens. Irritation and frustration appear. With the stress cycle going strong, these symptoms just build up until after a day of stress, you are feeling the effects. Aches and pains show up as your energy drops. It becomes hard to concentrate, even on simple tasks. You feel bad and just want to collapse into bed.
If such a pattern of stress goes on day after day, week after week, and month after month, you are headed for trouble. As you continue to live with and adapt to chronic stress, your body tries to get your attention to tell you that something is wrong.
While we often ignore early stress symptoms, our body does not. The body's message of distress is delivered through a variety of physical complaints such as: headaches, neck aches, and backaches as well as other muscle and joint pain. You could also feel chest tightness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or dizzy spells. Problems with the belly such as nausea and spasms may also appear. You always feel on edge.
When these symptoms first come, you may try to ignore them but eventually decide that you must be sick. So, you visit your doctor who listens to all your problems, runs tests, and helps you spend a lot of money. About two weeks later, you are called into the office and told something guaranteed to make you mad. What will your doctor say? "Good news. There is nothing wrong." And, there you sit - with your headache, backache, or belly pain, "Wondering, what's this all about?"
Well, the "Good News" is good news. The doctor was trying to find evidence of disease, and it can't be found. This means that you haven't hurt yourself - yet. But, if you keep living the same high-stress lifestyle another six-months and return to the doctor, you may get the "Bad News."
Your blood pressure, which used to go up and down, is now up and won't come down on its own. You need medication to control it. All that pain in your belly is now an ulcer. Live with stress long enough, and it can hurt you. If you already have an illness, stress can aggravate it and make it harder to control. Too much stress can be a dangerous problem.
Don't let stress control you. Learn to control it. Don't let stress accumulate. Learn to recognize the symptoms of stress so you can slow down, take breaks, and relax.
Take an online stress test at http://www.lessonsforliving.com/tests.htm
Dr. Dan Johnston, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist affiliated with Mercer Health Systems in Macon, Georgia. For 20 years he was the Director of Psychological Services for a large metropolitan Medical Center and is currently serving as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science for Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, Georgia. Dr. Johnston’s expertise is in stress management and resiliency training. He is the author of "Lessons for Living: Simple Solutions for Life’s Problems" from Dagali Press and creator of the popular Lessons for Living Web Site (www.lessonsforliving.com).