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Stressed out? Take Time to Evaluate Your Emotions

Ladies, let’s talk about stress or worry.  Have you ever worried or stressed about anything?  If so, what about?  Is there a time when you have ever not worried or stressed?  Worry or stress is partly a natural cerebral function that raises your sense of awareness, helps you navigate difficult situations, process and complete tasks and even keeps you and your family out of trouble.  The emotions of worry or stress can however, take your body by siege and render a palm- sweating, chest-tightening moment where you feel that your world is falling down around you – it can make you feel like you are going to die!  Such emotions becomes pathologic when it starts to affect how you feel or function and may even affect relationships and daily life.  Sound familiar?  If so, it is important stop and figure your emotions out.  Is what your feeling truly just worry or something else?  What you perceive as stress or worry may really be a medical condition that requires treatment.  You see, we as women are twice as likely as our male counter parts to develop psychiatric conditions like Panic disorder, Excessive worry, Anxiety and/or Depression.  I say “and/or” as Anxiety and Depression most commonly often coexist. 

Let’s think about the present to give you an example.  December is a particularly worrisome month for me.  Yes, it is the season of holiday cheer and giving with much celebration with family and friends, but behind all of this, I am sure you would agree, there is also a race to do so much – too much!  Christmas decorations, parties, and shopping.  It is a major task to set out to find that perfect present for your loved ones, hoping that what you found is well received!!!  When you shop for gifts, do you find yourself asking, “What if they do not like this present?”  I plead guilty on this account, and find myself  standing in the aisle looking like a lion is about to chase me with my heart racing and I am ready to bolt out the door!  But I can’t, I don’t have time to search forever so what do I do!  My Husband coaches me down each year from the ledge of hollies!  Do you see, this is a prime example of worrying!  It is a time for me, when worry becomes my foe.  Sound familiar? 

Honestly ladies, is there really only one time of year that we can be found worrying?  I wish to talk to you about the enigma of our emotions.  As a Physician, I see and discuss feelings of worry or stress, anxiety and depression on a daily basis.  Patients do not come to me and tell me they are stressed, worrying too much or feel panicked, anxious or depressed.  What I hear first is, “I am having difficulty sleeping.”  “I feel bad for my partner as I no longer desire sex.”  “I feel very irritable all the time and I am yelling at my kids for no reason.”  “I am crying too easily, this is not me!”  No matter the perceived emotion or situation, the one common statement to each encounter is, “I do not know why I feel this way? Can you help me?” 

It is often difficult to sort out emotions, how our bodies feel and function as we and our world are not static, we are dynamic.  It is important to recognize what is a natural response to our daily living and life versus what could set us on the path to serious illness.  Stress or worry versus any of the mood – altering psychiatric conditions must be recognized and addressed.  You may ask, “How do I manage my emotions or symptoms, no matter my diagnosis?”  Unfortunately, it is not as simple as taking a medication.  It is understanding your emotions, physical symptoms and translating this to your current state of mind and life circumstance.  It is important to talk with your healthcare provider about how you feel and if your feelings are a natural response versus one that demands medical attention.    This very topic is a part of our biology that I find we are least open to talk about.  All of what is said here is as important as addressing your diabetes or high blood pressure.  It will affect your overall health and wellness if not taken seriously.  It is NOT just in your head.  It has been in our culture that we speak discretely about this topic, but I wish this to be an open topic and welcome your thoughts and questions.  Discuss this topic as strategies are not just about medication, but also counseling and learning techniques you may do on a daily basis.  It can be as simple as getting regular exercise,  adequate sleep and avoiding caffeine, but beyond techniques like practicing mindfulness, regular yoga, prayer and learning muscle relaxation and reflection that could be performed in as little as 5-minutes no matter how busy or hectic your day is going.  Take time to think about how do deal with stress or worry and if there is something more happening that could affect you, your health.