We’ve all experienced our blood pressure rising when we step behind someone with a cart full of groceries in the 10-items-or-less Express aisle. Or when someone sneaks into the parking spot you’ve sat patiently waiting for. Yesterday I spent 40 minutes trying to sort out a tech problem on the phone with a call centre only to have the line suddenly go to dial tone, with my problem unresolved. These frustrations are minor, however, compared to the ongoing or prolonged stress associated with financial problems, chronic illness, childhood trauma, an abusive spouse or job pressures and job loss. Some people cope amazingly well in stressful situations while others worry excessively, lose sleep and use various coping methods such as drinking, abusing drugs or over-eating. While each of us manages stress in our lives differently, the insidious effects are cumulative and at a certain point our bodies scream for help.
Perhaps you know someone who pushes themselves too hard and before long they’re sick with a cold or worse. Stress takes an enormous toll on our immune systems consuming a great deal of energy that could have been diverted to more positive outcomes. Women are particularly prone because we have been conditioned to put everyone else first. Even when we’re feeling unwell or tired we push through, going to work, preparing meals, chauffeuring children to activities, caring for husbands. Taken to the extreme this can seriously compromise our immune systems leading to temporary or chronic illness.
During my last few years of working, the effects of a high-pressure job combined with aging and changes in my personal life led to some health issues. A series of tests revealed that my cortisol levels (a stress hormone released by the adrenal gland) were more than three times the high-end of normal. As a result of that and in order to stop the health problems from getting worse, I decided to retire early.
A friend who has recently developed a number of health-related problems found her symptoms largely disappeared when she was on vacation and returned with a vengeance when she returned to work and the real world. Her doctor wisely suggested treatment for the psychological as well as physiological symptoms. That included watching a video by Vancouver Doctor Gabor Maté that is available on You-Tube. I’m sharing the link here and you may see yourself or someone you know described in the video. It takes nearly an hour but is well worth the time. Listen to your body’s signals and take care of yourself—before it’s too late. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6IL8WVyMMs