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Tips for Helping Patients Combat Chronic Stress

Originated by: Paty Hernandez

Submitted: 29 Oct 2014

Last updated on: 29 Oct 2014

Related Health Topics:

Overview

We used to live in an age where immediate stress occurred due to wars, immense animals looking at us for dinner, and having to move from our home due to natural disasters. Nowadays stress is felt by everyone of any age due to various factors from work, school, relationships, living conditions, food insecurity, financial situations, and much more.

Stress is normal and can prove helpful as acute stress has numerous benefits such as releasing hormones, specifically cortisol. Cortisol is like a general calling all the troops to the battlefield in order to protect its most valued treasure, the body. The body responds with either flight, fight, or freeze mode. Once the threat is over the body returns to normal and all the systems relax and the person moves on. Relaxation techniques to reduce stress are also helpful in reaching the relaxation phase sooner.

Stress: A Public Health Concern

The American Institute of Stress (AIS) acknowledges stress now to be a chronic and emotional issue as the body remains in constant fight or flight mode, which can then increase chronic health conditions, if the body does not transition into the relaxation phase. Dr. Paul Rosch, President of AIS, explains an overview of research simplifies a cause of stress to the feeling of not able to be in control of situations.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has been issuing a survey on stress to the American public since 2007. The most recent survey, conducted in 2013, surveyed that most respondents felt stress was at more than half of what is considered healthy and most reported their stress levels have intensified. Most Americans experience chronic stress, due to numerous stressors and are unable or unaware of how to improve their situations or to relax. This is supported by the survey as it found “fewer than four in 10 adults report doing an excellent or very good job at managing stress”

Many people are not able to decrease their stress levels, either due to lack of education, time, or inconsistency, which then impacts their lifestyle and leads to unhealthy choices, such as addictions, lack of sleep, little to no exercise, and detrimental food options. This can lead to increase chronic diseases due to the immune system under constant fear of attack and improper care of the body.

Tips for Practice

  • There is no one-size-fits-all protocol. Public health professionals offering and practicing strategic tips to help reduce stress can assist patients individually or in group settings, as well as oneself.

  • Offer patients a confidential place to release frustrations and feelings of being out of control. By understanding the situations and circumstances of the patient, public health educators can identify and even relate to the feelings, and can offer strategically stress-reduction tips that can best assist the patient if he/she is committed to releasing the stress. The AIS offers on their website self-assessments such as The Workplace Stress Survey and the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory which can be offered to patients or taken oneself.

  • Encourage patients to take a 5-minute time out—it’s enough to enter the relaxation stage. Continued research in various scientific and psychological journals are finding the best practices are deep breathing, meditation, Cognitive-Based Therapy, massage, yoga, and aroma therapy to name a few.

Discussed in a following article are these specific techniques, which can be shared with patients and even practiced together in the office. Stay tuned!

Resources:

American Psychological Association (2014). Stress in America 2013. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/snapshot.aspx#

Rosch, P. (N.D.) Stress and Cancer. http://www.stress.org/stress-and-cancer/ The American Institute of Stress (N.D.). Self-Assessment. http://www.stress.org/self-assessment/

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