A few days ago, Jacob Wabuyi rose with the lark. He said a prayer and embarked on his journey, hoping to make it in time for his 9:00am job interview at Housing Finance Bank, near Kololo Airstrip.
As fate would have it, Wabuyi got caught up in the early morning traffic jam so he arrived late at Housing Finance and missed the interview. The ordeal depressed him. Being prone to low feelings and depression from stressful experiences like Wabuyi’s is common place.
But as Dr. Andrew Bunoti, a Mbale-based stress psychotherapist notes, the effects of stress depend in part on one’s inherited strengths, weaknesses and physical condition.
“A person with a troubled personality is more susceptible to stress disorders than, say, a person with a strong character and a happy-go-lucky personality,” he says.
According to Bisikwa Khalayi, a counsellor at Mukhuwa community counselling centre, Mbale, one should control stress to meet everyday challenges. When it is not subdued, it may cause emotional and physical problems. He adds that feeling good about yourself, balancing work, relaxation and developing self-improvement skills will help you meet the demands of daily living.
Dealing with stress
The lack of a positive approach in dealing with stressful situations means many people easily give in to self-destructive practices like taking drugs and alcohol. According to Internet sources, alcohol and drugs only mask the symptoms of stress without really dealing with the root cause of the problems.
According to Dr. Wilbrod Musana of Bumboi health center, Mbale, prolonged stress breaks down the body’s inborn immune defensive system. For instance, when one sleeps hungry and angry, the stomach muscles tighten and one becomes nauseated. As a result, one develops open sores in the stomach usually referred to as a peptic ulcers.
“The irregular churning action in the stomach, is what eventually leads to psychosomatic disorder,” Musana says.
Psychologists also argue that low feelings caused by stress can easily degenerate into chronic depression; a condition that can lead one to neglect good diet and activity habits. This eventually puts one at a greater risk of heart disease, obesity and kidney dysfunction.
Without a positive attitude in handling stress, Dr. Bunoti contends, we lay ourselves open to stress-related illnesses and like in Wabuyi’s case, a damper in self-esteem.
Other psychosomatic disorders that are caused and aggravated by stress include migraine headaches, lower back pain and irritable bowel syndrome.
Effect on body and mind
Bunoti notes that when an individual undergoes stress, the mind and personality of that person are affected.
“Our minds give in to depression and often individuals develop irritable personalities,” Bunoti says.
Bisikwa also explains that strong emotions, nervous anticipations, tension, headaches, stomach pains, infertility, excess urination, fits of depression, indigestion, physical exertion, insomnia and unusual heart poundings are all stress responses, which prepare our bodies for action.
“Stress responses are the body’s ways of dealing with the mental and physical demands of life,” Bunoti says. Stress disrupts the body’s natural balance system. Bunoti explains that responses are triggered within the body during stress. For instance, there might be an increase in the heart beat, respiration and sugar supply going to the muscles.
Eventually, the body tries to adapt to stress and restore its natural balance but when it is overwhelmed, exhaustion sets in and the body and mind become susceptible to illness.
However, stress should not always be viewed as negative. The right amount of stress can motivate one to be alert, energetic, focused and test one’s adaptability and flexibility. According to Internet sources, positive stress provides the challenges we need to improve physically, mentally and emotionally.
New stress research also shows that positive physical stress such as daily exercise goes a long way in helping people cope with stress. Bunoti says people with a good social support system enjoy better health and generally live longer stress free lives.
Stress reducing lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, balancing work and relaxation, adopting a positive attitude, getting enough sleep, not skipping meals and establishing regular meal times, carrying out tasks good humouredly, showing tolerance, warmth and friendliness and love to others, could just be your saving grace in stemming the tide of daily stress.
Effects of stress on body organs
Cardiovascular system: Hypertension, heart attacks and other heart diseases.
Respiratory system: Increased breathing, asthma, colds and sinusitis.
Reproductive system: Infertility and lack of reproductive drive.
Excess urination and urinary bladder infections.
Digestive System: Irritable bowel syndrome, increased or decreased appetite, indigestion, heartburn, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, spastic colon, peptic and duodenal ulcers.
Skin: Goose bumps, flushing, excess sweating, increased oil secretion that aggravates acne, hives and other allergic skin reactions
Nose: Swelling of mucus membranes.
Heart: Irregular heart rhythms, blood pressure, increase damage to your arteries, higher cholesterol levels and a weakened immune system.
Throat: Choking sensations caused by muscle tightening and swelling of mucus membranes
Inability to concentrate
Inability to slow down and relax
Strong anger over minor irritations
Feeling that things often go wrong
Frequent prolonged feelings of boredom
Frequent unexplained fatigue
Reliance on alcohol, tobacco or drugs for relaxation
Behaviour strategies to Reduce Stress
Learn to manage your time properly
Plan activities beforehand
When you have many things to do at once, set priorities.
Decide which tasks or activities are most important and tackle those activities first
Get regular exercise
Make relaxation a priority.
Adopt a positive attitude
Establish regular meal times and do not skip meals
Avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs