MANAGING STRESS AND LIVING WITH SICKLE CELL DISORDER

If you have spent some time on earth, then most likely the word ‘stress’ is not a strange one as you either would have used it in a conversation or heard someone use it during a chitchat or you must have experienced it.
Stress is one of the things that unify us as humans. Regardless of your position, everyone feels stress and must have been stressed at some point in life.

Stress can be encountered anywhere and everywhere and been able to recognize the source and control it is quite important.
Stress is completely unavoidable and while this is okay, be sure to not take in more than necessary as too much stress can lead to physical and mental exhaustion.
A lot of people are used to being stressed that they do not know the implications and repercussion of stress till they breakdown due to accumulated stress in the body.
Knowing and understanding stress is key to controlling it and its effect in the body.

What is stress?

Stress means different things to different people.
What causes stress in one may be pleasurable to others and while some are able to effectively manage stress, some are unable to take even the smallest dose of stress without breaking down under its weight.

Stress can be explained in terms of the body’s reaction to situations which are either real or perceived.
When these situations occur, a chemical reaction is triggered which propels you to act accordingly to prevent yourself from getting in harm’s way by either fighting or fleeing.
Smaller doses of stress can help you accomplish certain tasks like taking a quick jump off the road to prevent a car accident or slamming the brakes to avoid hitting a person crossing the road.
When stress stops being helpful and helping you accomplish certain tasks, and begins to affect your mood, productivity and general wellness, it is time to pay attention.

Symptoms of stress
Symptoms of stress can be felt physically and emotionally.
When you feel these symptoms, please do well to see your doctor.

Emotional symptoms of stress includes:

  1. Moodiness, unnecessary agitation and frustration.
  2. Feeling overwhelmed because you’re losing control when you should be in control.
  3. Avoiding other people.
  4. Finding it difficult to stay still and quiet.
  5. Feeling bad about one’s self.

Physical symptoms of stress:

  1. Somatic and muscular pains
  2. Low energy
  3. Constant headaches
  4. Stomach upset – diarrhea, constipation.
  5. Insomnia
  6. Increased heartbeats and chest pain
  7. Nervousness, sweaty palms and feet.
  8. Frequent colds and infections
  9. Loss of sexual drive
  10. Loss of appetite.

Other symptoms include
Inability to focus, poor judgment, forgetfulness, constant worrying, procrastination and eating too much or too little, among others.

Effects of stress
A little stress now and then is nothing to worry about but when stress becomes prolonged and consistent, it can lead to other health complications because our body is not wired to take large measures of stress.
Some of the effects of stress include:

  1. Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders.
  2. Cardiovascular diseases such as High blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, irregular heartbeat and stroke.
  3. Eating disorders – obesity and loss of weight.
  4. Gastrointestinal problems such as ulcer, irritable colon and gastritis.
  5. Insomnia
  6. Pains – somatic.

Causes of stress

Anything that puts a high demand on you can be stressful. Stressors or things that cause stress need not always be negative. Something such as planning an event, getting married or preparing for a presentation at work or school can be stressful.
Stress can be caused by both internal and external factors.

External causes of stress include:

  1. Work – job loss, promotion and retirement.
  2. Relationship difficulties such as divorce, separation or death of spouse
  3. Loss of a loved one
  4. Financial worries
  5. Overly active or engaging in stressful activities.
  6. School or academic workload.

Internal causes of stress include:

  1. Over-thinking situations
  2. Perfectionism – trying to get things done in a perfect way which is unrealistic.
  3. Rigidity and lack of flexibility
  4. Negative self-talk

How to cope with stress

  1. Have a strong support network you can always reach out to when you are overwhelmed or underwhelmed: A strong support system may be a friend or a family you can always talk to on a face-to-face basis. When you have people you can count on, they can share the pain with you and provide solutions to ease your stress so that these pressures do not drown you. The lonelier and isolated you are, the more likely you are to be more stressed. Find a strong support system and be ready to get the help they offer and provide.
  2. Develop a strong sense of control: You may not always be able to control things around you but the ones you can control, do well to control it. Do not allow circumstances and situations get to you, determine how far an event should affect you and your response to it. Do not be at the mercy of your conditions and circumstances, learn how to soothe and calm yourself when you are hurt, pained or sad.
  3. Have a positive outlook: Life happens to everyone so why spend time wallowing in guilt and pain when you can count your blessings and look at the brighter side of life? Be optimistic. Have a sense of humour, believe in yourself and believe in your ability to get things done. Maintain a positive outlook and appearance regardless.
  4. Be prepared for the outcome of an event: Before embarking on a task or anything, have full knowledge of how how long it would last and the requirements and level of commitment it would require from you. When you are fully prepared and informed of the outcomes of an event, it is easier for you to cope and go with it. Never embark on anything you are not fully aware of.
  5. Rest and exercise: Rest or finding time to relax can tremendously be helpful in alleviating stress. Find what you enjoy and do it. Listening to music, watching your favorite show on TV, reading your favorite book or lying down in silence. Identify what works for you. It may also require you taking a walk and meditating. Find what works for you and employ it.
  6. Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet should contain fruits and vegetables, high quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids. You are what you eat. Avoid intake of processes foods and sugary drinks. Drink freshly processes fruit juices and stay hydrated.
  7. Sleep: Sleep is the body’s way of repairing itself and restoring itself to default setting. Get a good night sleep and take naps during the day when need be. Sleep in a well-ventilated and dark room, free of noise and intrusion. Avoid alcohol and coffee and avoid looking into a screen hours before sleep.

Stress is an indelible part of life but it can be managed and avoided when need be.
Know your triggers and avoid it.
When you feel too stressed or have been exposed to stressful situations, please do well to see a doctor.

Stress is not a strange word, especially if you have lived long enough on earth, you would have had the opportunity to take a sip from that bitter-sweet drink called stress.

People say pain is the one thing everybody feels, the one experience that no one is oblivious of. I say stress is another thing that unifies us, it is another thing every human on earth has experienced and will experience regardless of their wealth, position, religion, age and level of education.

While you cannot avoid stress, you can manage the level of stress and its effect on you by first recognizing the source of stress and controlling how you respond to the stress. While a little stress is okay, it is also important to not allow yourself take on more than necessary stress as accumulated stress in the body becomes a baggage, a weight and since the body was never built to accommodate excessive stress, it breaks down physically and mentally.

So what then is stress?

Stress can be explained in terms of the body’s reaction to situations which are either real or perceived.
When these situations occur, a chemical reaction is triggered which propels you to act accordingly to prevent yourself from getting in harm’s way by either fighting or fleeing.

Stress can either be good or bad, it all depends on the level or amount and effect.
Stress in smaller doses can help you accomplish certain tasks like jumping off the road to avoid being hit by a vehicle or slamming the brakes of your car to prevent you from hitting a person crossing the road. This kind of stress can be called “good stress” because it helps you accomplish something good and it is within a short time in a short dose.
Stress becomes harmful when it rather than help you get things done, begins to hinder you from getting things done by affecting your mood, slowing down productivity and general wellbeing.

How do you know when stress is no longer beneficial?
Just like other conditions, there are signs that mark the beginning of an ailment. These symptoms point to the fact that there is a deviation from the normal functioning of the body.
They are signals that can your attention to the happening in the body. See it as your car’s way of telling you you have no gas in your car by the “E” indicator or that consistent blink that reminds you of the oil level in your car. Imagine what happens when you ignore those signs.

The symptoms of stress are noticeable and cannot be missed if attention is paid to how the body functions. These symptoms can be felt mentally and physically.
However, when your body manifests these signs, do well to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Emotional symptoms of stress includes:

  1. When you become unnecessarily moody and aggressive. You are too silent and when you speak, you speak with so much aggression and all things and people get on your nerve because you cannot sleep or you are not getting enough sleep, it is an indicator that you may be stressed.
  2. Feeling overwhelmed because you’re losing control when you should be in control: You can no longer do the things you used to do because you are not paying attention, you are not focused and so, things begin to slip away and you begin to make a lot of mistakes because you cannot control what is happening around you. So you become overwhelmed by how things pass you by without notice.
  3. Avoiding other people: Because you are cranky, edgy, aggressive and moody, you begin to avoid people you ordinarily relate with because you do not want to transfer your aggression. You stop doing what you enjoy, you become secluded and antisocial.
  4. Feeling bad about one’s self: Because all of these are happening and you cannot understand why, you find yourself apologizing a lot to people. Feeling bad and hating yourself for hurting people and doing and saying things you should have done and said.

Physical symptoms of stress:

  1. Somatic and muscular pains: When you feel pains in your body joints, this is not time to self-medicate or prescribe drugs for yourself. See a doctor before you pop those painkillers.
  2. Low energy: You feel drained physically and mentally. You become unmotivated and it takes a lot of strength to get you to do basic things like have a bath or eat your meal.
  3. Constant headaches.
  4. Stomach upset – diarrhea, constipation.
  5. Insomnia: Stress is one of the causes of insomnia. You feel sleepy but cannot sleep and when you do, you sleep so light that even a whisper can cause you to open your eyes. When you find it difficult to sleep, please see a doctor and don’t take get yourself hooked on sleeping pills.
  6. Increased heartbeats and chest pain
  7. Nervousness, sweaty palms and feet.
  8. Frequent colds and infections
  9. Loss of sexual drive
  10. Loss of appetite.

Other symptoms include:
Inability to focus, poor judgment, forgetfulness, constant worrying, procrastination and eating too much or too little, among others.

Causes of stress

Anything that puts a high demand on you can be stressful. Stressors or things that cause stress need not always be negative. Something such as planning an event, getting married or preparing for a presentation at work or school can be stressful. Compare your bodily functions when you are having a normal day at work or school with when you have to make a presentation or give a report. They are not the same because a normal day at work is already something your body is accustomed to as compared with you planning an event or preparing for promotion at work. You place a demand on your body and push it beyond familiar waters which if you are not watchful enough, it might sink.
Stress can be caused by both internal and external factors.

External causes of stress include:

  1. Work – job loss, promotion and retirement.
  2. Relationship difficulties such as divorce, separation or death of spouse
  3. Loss of a loved one
  4. Financial worries
  5. Overly active or engaging in stressful activities.
  6. School or academic workload.

Internal causes of stress include:

  1. Over-thinking situations
  2. Perfectionism – trying to get things done in a perfect way which is unrealistic.
  3. Rigidity and lack of flexibility
  4. Negative self-talk

Effects of stress
A little stress now and then is nothing to worry about but when stress becomes prolonged and consistent, it can lead to other health complications because our body is not wired to take large measures of stress.
Some of the effects of stress include:

  1. Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders.
  2. Cardiovascular diseases such as High blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, irregular heartbeat and stroke.
  3. Eating disorders – obesity and loss of weight.
  4. Gastrointestinal problems such as ulcer, irritable colon and gastritis.
  5. Insomnia
  6. Pains – somatic.
    The good news is that you do not have to wait till the full blown effects of stress are visible. You can take precautions and prevent these effects by paying attention to the symptoms of stress as they spring.

Since stress is inevitable and unavoidable, how then can one manage stress?
There are a lot of ways to manage stress effectively. The major and commonly used ways are:

  1. Have a strong support network you can always reach out to when you are overwhelmed or underwhelmed: A strong support system may be a friend or a family you can always talk to on a face-to-face basis. When you have people you can count on, they can share the pain with you and provide solutions to ease your stress so that these pressures do not drown you. The lonelier and isolated you are, the more likely you are to be more stressed. Find a strong support system and be ready to get the help they offer and provide. Whoever told you you can go through life alone lied to you. An iroko tree needs its root to support it, be like an iroko tree and get your support.
  2. Develop a strong sense of control: You may not always be able to control things around you but the ones you can control, do well to control it. Do not allow circumstances and situations get to you, determine how far an event should affect you and your response to it. Do not be at the mercy of your conditions and circumstances, learn how to soothe and calm yourself when you are hurt, pained or sad.
    Learn to walk away from situations or even people that make you afraid, scared, angry or drained. Be in control and protect your energy.
  3. Have a positive outlook: Life happens to everyone so why spend time wallowing in guilt and pain when you can count your blessings and look on the brighter side of life? You failed so what? Please get over it. You were denied the application, so what? Apply elsewhere. You were denied the loan, okay. Things did not work as planned, so is that a reason you should swim in the puddle of pity and regret?
    Be optimistic. Have a sense of humour, believe in yourself and believe in your ability to get things done. Maintain a positive outlook and appearance regardless.
    It is only in the desert where the weather is constant and you’re not a desert so, expect both the sun and rain.
  4. Be prepared for the outcome of an event: Before embarking on a task or anything, have full knowledge of how how long it would last and the requirements and level of commitment it would require from you. When you are fully prepared and informed of the outcomes of an event, it is easier for you to cope and go with it. Never embark on anything you are not fully aware of. You are getting a new job, be aware of what it entails and what you need to do so you can be prepared for it. You are getting into a relationship, know what is expected of you and decide if you can give it or not. Know the details of an event and prepare for the outcome.
  5. Rest and exercise: Rest or finding time to relax can tremendously be helpful in alleviating stress. Find what you enjoy and do it. Listening to music, watching your favorite show on TV, reading your favorite book or lying down in silence. Identify what works for you. It may also require you taking a walk and meditating. Find what works for you and employ it.
    Exercise is also important. You may not lift weights but at least you can take a walk, you can squat, you can do push ups, you can jump the ropes. The idea is to be active. Find time to be active, ride a bicycle, take a walk for short distance rather than take a cab. Those joints need some exercise before they become rusty. Oil them and get them moving.
  6. Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet should contain fruits and vegetables, high quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids. You are what you eat. Avoid intake of processes foods and sugary drinks. Drink freshly processed fruit juices and stay hydrated at all times. Do not wait till you are very hungry before you eat. Control your portion of food, it is not about quantity but the quality of food you eat. Don’t wait for your body to scream before you water it. Take care of your body, it is all you’ve got.
  7. Sleep: Sleep is the body’s way of repairing itself and restoring itself to default setting. Get a good night sleep and take naps during the day when need be. Sleep in a well-ventilated and dark room, free of noise and intrusion. Avoid alcohol and coffee and avoid looking into a screen hours before sleep.

Stress is a necessary piece in the puzzle called life. While it is inevitable and unavoidable, it can be managed and controlled. Think of it as a person on a strict diet, you may not be able to stop the cravings from coming but you can control yourself enough to indulge yourself or control the level of indulgence when you need to indulge.
Know your triggers and avoid it and when the stress becomes unmanageable, rather than break under its weight, please see a doctor. There is a reason God placed them on earth.

Chilagu Faith

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1 Response

  1. Hair Styles says:

    You are a very smart individual!

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