Stress: Cause, Effect & Care

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

Stress is a blurred response to the demands that life places on us. This is also how it builds up. In the course of time, it leads to stressful frustration — an indivisible component of modern life.

Our day-to-day life too has its allocation of stresses: peer pressure, marital, financial and workplace problems, among others.

There is not a single healthy person who is absolutely free from stress. All of us accumulate stressful feelings, sometimes for no real reason.

The moment we get into this stressful ‘pothole,’ we are putting pressure on the system. Any further build up will only ‘blow it up.’ Besides, the more one keeps quiet, the more one is looking for an outlet, or emotional punch bag. This could be one’s wife, kid, or colleague.

Stress occurs in three stages:

  1. An initial period of alarm — or, physiological arousal
  2. A longer phase of resistance — marked by irritability, impatience, anger and fatigue
  3. A final stage of exhaustion — represented by physical and emotional imbalance, maladjustment, withdrawal, illness, or disease; and, in some cases, death.

One should, however, realise that not all stresses are stressful, or negative — if only one deals with anxiety, or stress, effectively, it can work and help us to reach our goals faster.

You’d think of this as ‘good’ stress, or ‘eustress’ — it motivates and propels us to do well in life and also career.

Core Issues

Research shows that stress, in childhood or later years, affects the way our DNA is expressed. Childhood stress is something that many of us are becoming aware of only recently.

One study has found that children who were traumatised, suffered neglect, or abuse, while growing up, were over one-and-a-half times as likely as others to develop heart disease, cancer and other serious illnesses in adulthood.

  • Statistics suggests that 75 per cent of the general population experiences at least some form of stress every two weeks
  • 45 per cent of people report anger and irritability due to stress and 34 per cent report feeling sad, or depressed
  • 48 per cent report of overeating or eating unhealthy food to manage stress.

Stress, anxiety and depression are primarily a result of either psychological, or physiological causes. An unsolved emotional issue can affect an individual’s physical health just as much as mental well-being.

On the other hand, it can lead to biochemical imbalances, or deficiencies too, while influencing our mental and emotional outlook negatively.

It is, indeed, ironical that the connection between mind and body is often overlooked in most conventional protocols, albeit things are now changing dramatically. As a matter of fact, even mild-to-moderate mental, or emotional, illness can have unfavourable effects on our body.

Research suggests that mild forms of depression can hasten death in patients with heart disease.

Stress is suggested to elevate cholesterol levels, potentially increasing the risk of heart disease.

Stress, as we all know, is invariably the outcome of shock, grief, disappointment, or life-changes. It can leave one drained and vulnerable to illness, such as high blood pressure [hypertension], heart disease diabetes and cancer. When stress is left untreated, stress responses can become long-term, or chronic. Stress and health are closely linked.

Chronic, long-standing stress can induce a number of mind-body disorders, including mood swings and substance abuse.

Self-Help

  • Focus your attention on another activity when stressed, or anxious, something you like doing
  • Try relaxation techniques; find the one that suits your needs best
  • Meditate, help others, spend time with others, speak to, or visit friends
  • Physical exercise — walk, swim, go to the gym, cycle, or take the stairs, instead of the lift
  • Avoid stimulants like alcohol and excess coffee [also, smoking]
  • Watch a comedy; read a hilarious book
  • Limit your responsibilities. It’s all right to say ‘no’
  • Speak to your doctor — this is the best thing one can do for good, long-term, also tangible, outcomes.

Treatment 

Ayurveda 

Stress is understood to be a major killer today. Stress is related to our total health — physical, mental and emotional. In Ayurveda, stress is a resultant condition due to pragyaparadha. In a study, a total of 37 patients were registered and randomly divided into three groups, viz., Group A were subjected to Jaladhara for 7 days, along with Mansyadi kwatha, for 30 days; Group B were subjected to Tailadhara for 7 days, along with Mansyadi kwatha for 30 days; and, Group C received only Mansyadi kwatha for 30 days.

The key aim and objective of the study were: 1] To study the comparative effect of Jaladhara and Tailadhara in the management of stress; 2] To study the clinical efficacy of Shirodhara.

Assessment of the effect of treatment was done on the basis of relief in the subjective and objective signs and symptoms of stress and on Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale. The data were analysed statistically. It was observed that symptoms, like insomnia, anxiety etc., were almost completely relieved in Shirodhara group. In Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale results for both the dhara groups were statistically highly significant. Tailadhara provided better relief for almost all the symptoms of stress and also on Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale as compared to Jaladhara. 

  • Neha G Tank, “A Comparative Clinical Study of Jaladhara and Tailadhara in the Management of Stress,” International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine, Vol 6, Issue # 1, January-March 2015.

NB: Ashwagandha, Shankhpushpi, Brahmi and Tagara [valerian], among others, are just as useful to ‘beating’ stress. They are best taken under professional guidance. 

Homeopathy

For over 200 years, homeopaths have treated stress, depression and anxiety — safely and successfully — without side-effects. Homeopathy is mind/body medicine. It aims to help the mind and body achieve balance and also harmony.

Homeopathy aids to rebalance the mind and emotions. It is useful for people of all ages — from children with emotional, or behavioural, problems to adults, bogged down by stress, anxiety and depression.

In a national survey, conducted by The Society of Homeopaths [UK], and published in The Homeopath [25.2; 2006], 87 per cent of patients who complained of mental and emotional problems reported positive change after homeopathic treatment.

Homeopathy has been found to be as effective as conventional prescription drugs in the treatment of stress and anxiety. In a typical Primary Care Trust [PCT] of 200,000 people, there will be around 25,000, who suffer from stress, depression, anxiety, or neuroses. The IMPACT Service in Nottingham, UK, offers homeopathic treatment for patients with common mental health problems. The Service, according to published reports, has demonstrated that 74 per cent of patients in the category experienced significant improvement, with homeopathic treatment, while several patients/individuals were able to give up their conventional drugs.

Depression is one of the most commonly treated conditions by homeopaths worldwide. In a 6-year study of 6,544 patients, published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 205 patients were treated with homeopathy for depression. 71 per cent of patients improved.

In another review of 1,783 patient conditions, published in Homeopathy, depression was the most frequently treated condition. 63.06 per cent of depressed patients, among them, experienced significant improvement with homeopathic treatment.

Yet another randomised, double-blind study of a group of patients, suffering from moderate-to-severe depression, found homeopathy to be as effective as anti-depressant drugs. What’s better — there was no evidence of side-effects following homeopathic treatment.

NB: Homeopathic treatment is best taken under professional guidance.

Nutrition

New research at The Ohio State University, US, found that daily supplements that contained 2.5gm of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, the highest dose tested, were best at helping the body resist the damaging effects of stress. The study reported that when compared to the placebo [dummy pill] group, participants taking omega-3 supplements produced less of the stress hormone, cortisol, and lower levels of a pro-inflammatory protein, during a stressful event in the lab. And, while levels of protective compounds sharply declined in the placebo group after the stressor, there were no such decreases detected in people taking omega-3s. The supplements contributed to what the study called stress resilience: reduction of harm during stress and after acute stress sustained anti-inflammatory activity and protection of cell components that shrink as a consequence of aging. The potential anti-aging effects were considered particularly striking because they occurred in people who were healthy but also sedentary, overweight and middle-aged — all characteristics that could lead to a higher risk for accelerated aging. The findings suggest that omega-3 supplementation is one relatively simple change people could make that could have a positive effect at breaking the chain between stress and negative health effects.

  • Annelise A Madison, “Omega-3 Supplementation and Stress Reactivity of Cellular Aging Biomarkers: An Ancillary Sub-Study of a Randomised, Controlled Trial in Midlife Adults,” Molecular Psychiatry, 2021 Jul 26 [7]: 3034-3042.

NB: Magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C and D, among others, are just as useful to combating stress. They are best taken under professional guidance.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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