In today’s world women and men are equal in many ways. Many women have full time jobs and care for their families. There are more responsibilities that are falling on female shoulders. Subsequently it increases daily stress and physical exhaustion. Stress is supposed to be good for us; it keeps us alert and motivated. Yet, too much stress or prolonged stress can lead to depression in people with predisposition.
Unipolar depression is predicted to be the second leading cause of global disability. It is twice 1as common in women as men. Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability among women compared to 29.3% among men. Anxiety is often accompanied by depression.
My patients often have unexplained physical complaints such as: headaches, nausea and vomiting, skin rashes, chest pain, frequent urination, difficulty in breathing, abdominal pain, diarrhea, lower back pain, skin and muscle discomfort. Many of these physical complaints could be associated with fears and excessive worries. Most physical symptoms are real and caused by emotional stress. This can be a vicious cycle because physical symptoms can lead to more emotional stress.
How to approach these situations? As a starting point medical causes need to be ruled out, even though the reasons could be obvious and stressors are already identified. All necessary tests related to a
physical complaint needs to be evaluated. Effective reassurance is required, and medical history as well as detailed up to date physical examination will provide that.
Management of stress and life problems is not easy to modify, but the improvement of coping skills along with other techniques could be helpful. Learning how to relax is easy to say, but difficult to do. I often give advice to my patients to practice relaxation techniques, so the relaxation techniques could work on them. Another helpful tip is to avoid patterns of negative thinking, increase level of physical activity, and get proactive in seeking positive and pleasurable experiences.
Here are some useful strategies:
- Do self talk to reassure yourself and raise your self confidence:
“..My stressors are temporary. My signs of medical illness were ruled out by medical checkup. Even though my stress is unique to me, everyone deals with stress daily. If they can deal with the stress I can deal with it too…”
- Practice relaxation techniques and be aware of your physical reaction to stress:
Practice slow breathing by using the abdominal muscles to reduce common physical symptoms such as muscle tension, hot and cold flushes, headaches, chest tightness or shortness of breath. Breathe in for three seconds and out for three seconds and then pause for three seconds before breathing in again. Use this technique before and during the situations that make you anxious. Regularly check your breathing and slow it down throughout the days that are especially stressful.
- Change your attitude and ways of thinking:
Find something positive about yourself, live in the moment, and use your sensory organs to enjoy your surroundings. Acknowledge your negative automatic thoughts and start practice of creating positive ones for each negative statement.
- Watch your diet:
Healthy eating and quality life style is the key to your youth. Create your own healthy diet by using your favorite foods. Make it an art and take pride in making your own sandwich or salad. Experiment with new ingredients; take your time to day dream while enjoying your new gastronomic experiences. Water is a mandatory drink for everyone’s health.
- Look after your sleep cycle:
Sleep is another essential health factor which is often ignored. Lack of sleep changes the mood of everyone, even for most calm and relaxed. Sleep disturbance is a common complaint of depression and anxiety. Check your sleep pattern, and causes of interruption. Routines are important for healthy sleep.
- Increase level of physical activity:
It is important to allocate time for exercise activities. Investing in exercise will pay you back with dividends of good mood and healthy self-esteem. Whether it is several short exercise sessions of 5-10 min in durations, or 1-2 hours of working out you get the feeling of an energy boost, sense of higher level of accomplishment, and overall satisfaction with yourself.
These insignificant modifications of daily lifecycle can significantly improve your health in a long term period.
To summarize this passage in three points: First, rule out any medical conditions, Second treat your mental conditions if there are any, and then start addressing your stress problems with modifications to
your daily lifecycle.