Sunday, February 17, 2019

The best medicine for all your stressful life woes...

by Alethea (writer), Los Angeles, November 09, 2006


Stress hurts. As I’ve discussed in a previous article, it may be from heartache through some type of break up, whether it is ending a long term friendship, an intimate relationship or maybe it’s pain from loosing a loved one. But other types of physical effects can come from other types of stress. The pain may feel different, like a tension headache, muscle strain, insomnia, or tightened airways from dealing with moving or changing jobs. There’s a variety of situations life will throw at you, good and bad, but stress is surely intertwined in a fair amount of it. And there will be invariant times that you’ll have double or triple combos of stressful life events that will weigh you down and you’ll start feeling the stress effect creep up on you. The simple fact is that stress not only feels like it hurts, but it actually does hurt you.

How can one fix this problem? Of course diet, exercise, and a positive attitude matter greatly, but one of the most important factors in dealing with huge life challenges is your social support system. What do I mean by that? Basically, your family and friends that offer physical and emotional support make up this system. They’re the people that you can trust to be by your side and to listen to your problems no matter what. This also includes people that you may not talk to all the time, but can call out of the blue to catch up, ask advice from or just chat about nothing in particular. Even co-workers can be an important aspect of this circle. Even if your family may be minimal in the emotional or physical support arena, you can sort of make-shift certain friends to become so close they are like family to you.

So why is this system so important? It’s impertinent for me to go more into depth on this topic than I have before because it is so essential to coping with general life stress. By nature, humans are social creatures. We need to feel loved and appreciated (albeit some more so than others). But besides this, research has shown in a variety of ways that stress, health, and support systems are interrelated. When we feel we have support our self esteem rises as does our confidence. In essence, other areas in life like taking care of yourself, leisure time, relaxation time, social interactions, etc. follow that are essential to everyone's well being. Without support, your immune function declines, mood usually drops, and various conditions may arise as a result, especially if you're already dealing with health problems.

In a study conducted by R. Wright on atopy (predisposition for allergies, eczema, and asthma), she states that, “Psychological stress should be conceptualized as a social pollutant which can be ‘breathed’ into the body and disrupt a number of physiological pathways.” Several studies of the flu indicate that high levels of loneliness and a small social support network had the lowest levels of antibody response (Cohen et al). They experienced the cold longer and harsher. There have also been numerous studies on healing response time, cancer, surviving bone marrow transplants, surgery recovery, etc. all being affected by the patients having an adequate social network. In some cases, the survival rate is 2x (or more) higher than patients lacking in the same type of support. Emotional support seems to be the most important than other types such as financial or informational (advice), but this needs to be researched further.

The effects of stress aren’t just physical. Many psychological problems, such as depression, can become aggravated and worsen without support.

A friend in need may be a friend indeed, but a friend that offers their support when times are tough is probably even better.

About the Writer

Alethea is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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