Dear Dr. Garner,
I hope you can help me. I start each day with a headache. I am constantly nervous about things at work, and I have trouble with my bowels.
I never had these problems until I started my new job. Everyone at work is under tension and a lot of pressure. My boss is very difficult. What can I do?
My husband says this is very dangerous for my health. How bad is this? Do you think there is a way it can be improved upon?
I do enjoy relaxing and watching your show on Tuesday nights. Please keep the shows coming!
Tension and Anxiety in Astoria
Tension can be a real killer. I am sorry that you face such tension and anxiety each day at work.
Some of the more common effects of stress include headache, muscle tension, lack of sex drive, irritability, overeating, drug or alcohol abuse and angry outbursts. A “tension headache” usually produces a dull aching pain with tightness or pressure across the forehead. There is often tenderness in the back and shoulder muscles.
Stress can actually be a good thing. It helps keep us alert and aware of danger. It becomes a problem when a person faces continuously stressful situations without relief or relaxation. In fact, 75 to 90 percent of all doctor visits are for stress-related ailments.
Stress-Related Health Concerns
Some of the more serious health problems related to stress include:
• Heart disease. Stress can in-crease the risk of heart attacks.
• Asthma. Many studies have shown that stress worsens asthma.
• Premature death. Caregivers under a high amount of stress were found to have a higher rate of death than people in their age group who are not caregivers.
• Alzheimer’s disease. One study dealing with animals found that stress worsens Alzheimer’s disease, causing brain lesions to form more quickly.
• Accelerated aging. There is evidence from scientific experiments that stress can accelerate the aging process.
• Diabetes. Stress can worsen diabetes in two ways. First, it increases the likelihood of an unhealthy lifestyle, and second, stress raises the sugar level in people with Type II diabetes.
• Obesity. Stress creates excess fat in the body and increases harmful hormones, such as cortisol, which can lead to increased fat deposited in the belly.
• Depression and anxiety. Chronic stress is related to a higher rate of depression. One survey found that people under stressful conditions at work had an 80 percent higher risk of developing depression.
Stress does not affect everyone in the same manner. Some deal with it better than others.
There are also specific situations that can cause tension. Some of these include illness (either personal or a close relative), death of a friend or loved one, being overloaded at work, starting a new job, being unemployed, financial concerns, divorce and marriage.
Some of the warning signs of stress include aches and pains, grinding of the teeth, stooped posture, tiredness, weight gain and constipation or diarrhea. People who are under stress have difficulty making decisions. Forgetfulness and inability to concentrate can often occur.
It is difficult to escape stress in the workplace, and leaving your job may not be the best choice. It is more important to learn to manage stress.
Some of the following suggestions may be helpful:
1. Do physical activity. Exercise is a good stress reliever. Activities can include walking, gardening, biking or anything that gets you moving.
2. Laugh. A good sense of humor won’t cure everything, but it can make you feel better.
3. Socialize. It is very important to socialize. When stressed, many people withdraw from social contact.
4. Be assertive. It gives you a feeling of control. It has to be done tactfully at work but can be done more easily at home. Sometimes being overwhelmed with obligations can cause stress. Learn to say “No.”[hr] Dr. Garner is a Fidelis Care provider who is affiliated with New York Methodist Hospital, Park Slope. He also hosts “Ask the Doctor” on The NET, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Channel 97 Time Warner and Channel 30 Cablevision.