In a previous post, I talked about how thinking too much wasn’t a direct cause of hypertension and it seems a few readers assumed that stress had no health effects. So I decided to write this post to set the record straight.
When stressed, the muscles tighten up, hence the body is tense, the heart beats faster and the brain is in full gear. This is perfect when there is a deadline to meet, or an exam to write because it increases productivity and is beneficial. However, after the deadline has been met, everything is back to normal. This type of stress is short term stress.
There is a second type of stress and that’s what I will focus on today. This is called long-term or chronic stress. This occurs when one is constantly exposed to stress with no break for a long period of time. Whether it’s from work or from personal relationships. From grief or fear. Several things can cause stress in our lives. In this case, the body, heart and brain are constantly overworked for long periods of time. This kind of stress is the bad stress.
Stress reduces immunity. The body will not be able to fight infections as well as it should. Hence, we get sick easier. Stress also affects sleep and diet and thus, could cause one to eat too little or too much. Stress can affect one’s mood, make you depressed or hot-tempered. It can make you lose focus and motivation.
Stress also affects menstrual cycle and can lead to infertility in women as well as erectile dysfunction in men. It can lead to alcoholism and substance abuse. When you are stressed, your body is pumped with adrenaline. But when adrenaline keeps getting pumped for such a long time, it becomes bad for your heart and can cause heart disease, or a heart attack.
These effects may seem negligible, but I want you to think of the long-term effects of everything I have mentioned and you will realize how consequential they are.
According to a recent study by Bloomberg, Nigeria is the most stressful country in the world. With Boko haram, Fulani herdsmen, and Niger Delta Avengers. It’s not surprising. Then there is unemployment, corruption, strike, dollar rate, fuel scarcity and power failure. Of course, we are bound to be stressed. Even the budget signing was stressful, for God’s sake.
Hence, for many of us, we can’t avoid stress. It is a daily part of our lives. But what we can and need to do is manage it. That is by de-stressing. By de-stressing, we are giving the body, heart and brain the much-needed time it needs to repair the damage the stress has caused. So that even though you are constantly exposed to stress, by de-stressing, you are reverting the damage that stress may have already caused.
So I’m going to tell you the dos and don’ts’ of de-stressing. Although yoga and meditation are perfect and proven ways to de-stress, they aren’t really practical in Nigeria. But please, if you can do these, then by all means, go ahead. So here goes…
Watch something funny
Laughter is the best medicine. It is a popular saying because it is true. It is a great form of stress relief. So watch a comedy show and laugh either at the jokes or the comedians (if they aren’t funny). For those of you who do not watch Nigerian movies, please, watch them when stressed. Not those serious ones. The really bad ones. Because then, you get to laugh at the movie.
Exercise is perfect for de-stressing for various reasons. It’s hard to maintain a deep thought when exercising. The focus is primarily the exercise. As for me, when I’m exercising, my main thought is when I am going to be done with the exercise and nothing else. Also, exercising causes the release of endorphin (feel good hormones), so it actually makes you feel good afterwards. And once, you are done, you will feel too tired to think. And it will make you sleep better.
Do something you enjoy
Read a book, look at a fashion magazine, cook, listen to music, hang out with friends or watch a Korean drama. Whatever your hobby is, engage in it. I am not talking about those boring hobbies you lied about in your curriculum vitae. Doing something you really enjoy will take your mind of whatever stressor there is, and give your brain some needed healing time.
Take peppersoup or suya
Tried and tested. By the time you take one of these delicious foods, all you will think about is how to quell the spiciness. You can also eat foods like nuts, yoghurt or oranges. These are foods that have been proven to relieve stress.
Dance to Nigerian music
Our Nigerian music comes in handy at times like this. Because they are so upbeat, you can’t help but shake your body to its tune. So play a Nigerian song, dance and forget your worries. Also, dancing is a form of exercise (see 2nd point above to know why this is relevant).
This is the best method. If you can’t sleep, do something that will tire you (like exercise) and make you sleep. By sleeping, you are giving your body the rest it needs and deserves.
Don’t watch the news. Trust me, when you are stressed, stay away from the news. It will only increase your stress. Keep that newspaper, NTA at 9 or CNN away. Except if bad news make you happy.
Don’t drink alcohol. This is an unhealthy way of de-stressing. Alcohol is bad for your liver, your blood sugar and your sanity.
Don’t smoke. Again, Unhealthy, addictive and bad for you. These will only cause worries and health problems in your later years.
Don’t do drugs. Please refer to the point above and multiply by 100.
Don’t over eat. Especially sweets and sugary foods. These are bad for your health and will only make you add weight which will cause you to feel stressed again later. It’s a vicious cycle.
These are just some ways you can manage your stress. The most important thing to note is that you need to do what relaxes you. If all else fails, you could just visit this blog. Hmm, Now, I wonder if these posts will cause stress or de-stress. Something to think about.
The image belongs to Gerd Altmann