By Benjamin Jose C. Quito, M.D.

We all know that stress is part of our everyday lives.  As human beings, we have been constantly affected by different stressors.  It can be from a bad day from work, aborted relationships, or financial difficulties.  It is how we cope up with stress that make each person vary.

In simple terms, we define stress as the body’s physical and emotional response to challenging situations and changes in daily life.   According to Anthony Yeo, stress is any kind of pressure that affects a person in his daily life which could be healthy or unhealthy.  For some, it could be a driving force to make someone better, but for some it may lead to depression.

Stress can either be positive or negative.  There is positive stress when there is a sense of focus when facing a challenging situation enabling us to relax and enjoy our achievements.  There is negative stress when we feel anxious when faced with a challenge.  When we become anxious, stress homones such as epinephrine rise, make our hearts pump faster, sometimes creating premature beats and abnormalities in rhythm.  These could lead to palpitations and increased blood pressure despite maximal anti-hypertensive medications.  We can also have excessive perspiration, stomach cramping, and muscle stiffening.

In order to combat stress, we should be aware where they come from.  Physical factors such as pollution, temperature extreme and drugs may be a cause.  Social causes such as loss of a loved one, sickness, and financial difficulties maybe identified.  However, psychological factors such as frustration, inferiority and anxiety may pose more danger.

How should we deal with stress?  We should remember the 3 As-alter, avoid, and accept.  First, strategy is to alter.  We should alter our lives to remove and challenge any source of stress.  Of course, we need self acceptance.  We also need to identify what causes our stress.  The next strategy is to avoid.  We should remove ourselves from the stressful situation and prevent stress.  Next strategy, is to accept.  We should combat stress through proper diet and exercise, adequate relaxation and leisure time.  We should also invest in strong and worthwhile relationships with our loved ones.  Relationships can make or break us.  It can be an important stressor in our lives.  Thus, we need to handle them well.

Stress is not entirely bad for our heart.  If there is a fire or an emergency, our body engages in “fight and flight” mechanisms in order to save us.  However, negative stress may ruin our identity and make physical recovery hard.  Based on studies, cardiac surgery patients recover faster when they are relaxed with an optimistic attitude as compared when they are anxious and stressed.

We can not do away with stress.  We are only human.  Sometimes, we can’t help but give in to stress.  Nonetheless, we should do our best to defeat stress so we can go on with our lives and be the best persons that we can become.

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