Stress affects most people on a daily basis, in fact, a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association reported a 44 percent increase in stress levels from last year. Stress affects every person differently and can be classified into acute (instant) or chronic (over time). The manifestations of stress are lengthy however the most common symptoms include elevated heart rate, headache, back pain, abdominal discomfort, stiff neck, and fast breathing. Chronic stress can compromise your immune system by making a person more susceptible to disease. Stress also has a direct correlation to heart disease and hypertension. If an individual has stomach problems such as GERD, peptic ulcer disease, or irritable bowel disease, the symptoms will be exacerbated with stress. The most common areas affected by all types of stress are the neck, shoulders, and back.
Stress is also taking its toll on children. In fact, almost a third of all children reported a physical health symptom associated with stress in the APA’s 2010 Stress in America study. Parents do not realize their own stress is affecting their kids. The relationship between stress and weight gain in children is bidirectional. Due to the lack of coping mechanisms in children, most turn to food, increased sleep, or sedentary behavior resulting in weight gain. The key is to maintain balance by following these five daily principles:
1. Schedule downtime even if only for 10 minutes to bond as a family either with dinner, talking or a group acitivity.
2. Avoid fighting in front of your children. Save the discussion for a later time.
3. Show children how to cope with stress by dealing with your own stress in a healthy way.
4. Encourage your child to participate in enjoyable activities at school and commend them along the way.
5. Maintain a balance of nutrient enriched foods for continued energy all day.
-Shuree Oldehoeft-Ohlemann, PA-C