Stress Strikes! Part I

Stress Strikes! Part I

Stress Strikes! The Overview – A Multi-Series Blog Post

The world is more distressed than ever.  According to Gallup’s 2018 annual world poll, people report being more stressed than in any previous year since the poll’s inception.  What is stress, how is it affecting us, and what can we do to help ourselves?

What is Stress?

There is no single definition of stress that everyone agrees on.  In fact, there are two types of stress, positive and negative.  Positive stress is known as eustress and encompasses stress in daily life as a result of criteria such as a marriage proposal, promotion, new baby, winning money, graduating, etc.  Distress, on the other hand, is a result of negative criteria such as breakups, punishment, injuries, negative feelings, financial problems, work difficulties, etc.  When people say they are “stressed”, typically they are referring to distress, not eustress. 

Either way, both forms of stress involve an external component interacting with the internal environment of one’s body resulting in a cognitive “stressed out” response.  In addition to the cognitive response, there are also physical responses including hypertension, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and skin complaints, to name a few.  Finally, an accurate definition of stress should include the role of the sympathetic nervous system and adrenaline secretion in what is known as the “fight or flight” response. 

Clearly, stress is a complicated term to define.  However, those suffering with chronic stress probably don’t need to define the term.  They live from one day to the next feeling overwhelmed, overloaded, out of control, and unsafe; they know all too well they are stressed out.

Stress Statistics

The fast acting nature of treatments has made ketamine increasingly popular in treating persistent depression and suicidality in patients.  While it is true that some opioids, such as morphine, initially have an antidepressant effect followed by promoting depression with repeated use, this is not the case with ketamine-repeated use leads to increased antidepressant response. The very fact that those in the field of anesthesia, who have been using ketamine since its development in the 1960s, have long regarded it as a non-opioid drug speaks to its unique nature.  Dr. Rodriguez called the results of this study “the beginning of a conversation” and said it “highlights that ketamine’s mechanism of action is complicated.”  It is likely that ketamine acts through several important neurotransmitter systems affecting mood, anxiety, and the sense of well being.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Pursuant to the Stanford study, some experts have expressed concern regarding the possibility of patients becoming dependent on ketamine or addicted to it, as is the case with other opioids.  While it is true that all risks associated with drug use need to be properly examined, it is important to remember that this study was small and preliminary with results needing to be replicated in future research.  Dr. Rodriguez, who has pioneered the use of ketamine as a treatment for OCD, says the study does not prove ketamine works primarily through the brain’s opioid system.  Professor Ronald Duman of Yale University has published research demonstrating how ketamine causes brain cells to form new connections.  He is not convinced that ketamine’s effect on the opioid system is the key to how it treats depression.  Ketamine has a powerful effect on the brain’s glutamate system and “a relatively low affinity for opiate receptors,” says Duman. 

In 2018, the Everyday Health organization surveyed 6,700 Americans ages 18 to 64 and published the United States of Stress special report.  The research emphasized that chronic stress is a national epidemic for all genders and ages.  When chronic stress is not treated, it affects all parts of a person: the body, mind, and spirit.  Sleep is difficult, weight problems ensue, the body becomes more susceptible to illnesses, and existing medical conditions are exacerbated. 

Over time, the chronic stress can result in serious health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, to name a few.  Additionally, mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety occur.

How to Manage Stress

Managing and alleviating stress is possible.  In fact, there are many varied ways to reduce stress.  The key is to find which method(s) work best for you personally, and then make the methods a priority in your daily/weekly routine.  Unfortunately, the Everyday Health survey revealed nearly half of those surveyed respond to their stress with distraction rather than an intention to prevent or reduce it.  The following list is a sample of powerful stress management skills. 

Fast-Fix Short Term Solutions

  • Breathing from the diaphragm
  • View imagery of nature
  • Stretch to relieve muscle tension
  • Make To-do List
  • Use a stress ball or fidget spinner to shift focus

Longer Lasting Self Care Solutions

  • Integrate exercise into weekly routine
  • Avoid alcohol/drugs as coping mechanisms
  • Pursue Yoga or Cognitive Therapy
  • Learn mindfulness meditation
  • Routinely spend time with human and furry friends

Watch for signs of stress and take appropriate actions before stress becomes paralyzing.  There is no quick, easy fix.  However, recognizing you need some self-care and prioritizing your needs can help you stay in control rather than lose control when stress rears its ugly head.

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