Stress suppresses the immune system. While short-term suppression of the immune system is not dangerous, chronic suppression leaves the body vulnerable to infection and disease. But stress is normal right? Of course it is and to a certain degree, some stress is good for the body. The fight or flight response theory supports that when a person/animal perceives an imminent threat, neurotransmitters are released that allow for an immediate, protective response/action. In extreme situations, this protective factor is beneficial however most stressful situations do not require such rapid and immediate response. Since stress can have both physiological and psychological impact, it is important to recognize ongoing stress and implement coping techniques to change the harmful responses to the stressors.
Step away from these staggering statistics and it seems that these discussions have less to do with politics and more to do with a real fear of uncertainty faced by the American public. Many, if not all of us know families that have been devastated by these difficult economic times. Turn on any television news channel to witness the onslaught of social service programs begging for additional assistance. What about food pantries relaying stories of near empty shelves yet capacity crowds lined up for assistance. Even more heart wrenching are seniors plagued with the decision to pay for either prescription medication or rent or maybe the homeless veterans seen nourishing themselves from garbage cans, after having served this great Nation of ours. Further imagine the resources of public schools that are being tasked with social services BEFORE the school day even starts and before the primary role of education…only to help the sweet young lady covered with bed bugs, through no fault of her own, yet render her unable to return to class. Imagine her mother trying to fight the slumlord apartment owner who refuses to assist knowing she is barely scraping by. I can go on. Dan and I have witnessed or been told stories like this every day.
In a world that is heavily laden with constant demands for immediacy and instant gratification, many of our patients report that they have never felt as “stressed-out” as they do at this time in their lives. Mobile offices, which require access to smart phones and Internet programs, leave employees on call virtually 24/7. This immediate and connected environment has created the benefit of high efficiency for employers, yet has translated into added stress for employees. Add in the demands of keeping up with the expansive world of social media and you can see why this connected community is on high alert. This stress translates into pain, fatigue, lack of coping skills, decreased productivity, and many times depression, anxiety and addiction. Coping mechanisms are often times simple techniques that can reframe a negative situation or provide a picture that keeps the patient from spiraling thoughts or attitudes. Exercise, meditation, relaxation, biofeedback, and cognitive behavioral therapy are just a few options to support a healthier thought process and reduce stress.