July is Mental Health Awareness month, so Luthando Kortjaas looks at stress, how it affects us and what to do about it.
There’s a big difference between the stress caused by being stuck in traffic, for example and that caused by the death of a loved one. Genuine stress can lead to medical problems that threaten our health, so it should not be underestimated.
What is stress?
Shelton Kartun is an anger management counsellor who is also the director and founder of the Anger & Stress Management Centre of South Africa. He says that stress is the inability to cope with a situation, when the demands on the individual exceed their personal resources. Some of the things that cause stress (referred to as stressors) in modern society include financial worry and debt, unemployment, job insecurity, relationship problems, demanding children, single parenting, unpleasant work colleagues (especially bosses) and unreasonable demands in the workplace. But the highest stressors, says Kartun, include the death of a family member or loved one, moving home, divorce, separation, illness and being made redundant at work.
Signs to watch for
Some of the physical signs of stress include:
- raised blood pressure
- disrupted sleep patterns – not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
- skin rashes (eczema)
- headaches, back pain and tummy problems
- frequent colds, flu or other illnesses
- emotional upsets such as irritability, anger, anxiety and sadness
- behavioural changes such as suddenly becoming unsociable, or the opposite – not wanting to be alone.
Dealing with the dangers
Stress raises blood pressure and cholesterol levels and can contribute to coronary heart disease. But it is manageable and Kartun recommends visiting a doctor or a specialist centre like the Anger & Stress Management Centre of SA.
To read more about this, check out Jet Club magazine's July/August issue.
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