Why stress, What stress, How stress!

Just today, I lost possession of my phone for a short while. I was quite upset, in fact so upset that I developed some gastritis with severe pain in my tummy. And also today in the case folder of one of my patients, I saw a small scribble on stress that I had made in his case file to help him cope with the situation in his life. So I thought it would be the right time for me to rethink my response to my stress and see how I can deal witth them in a better way in the future and to put down my thoughts on paper. I hope you enjoy reading this article and get something useful out of it.

Stress is usually not something someone does to you but is actually something that you do to yourself when faced with an unpleasant situation or a person or have to make a tough decision. We need to make decisions in every situation in our lives. To stand or to sit, to talk or to stay quiet, to run or to fight. Quite often, we are stuck and find ourselves paralysed and indecisive because we think too much of the consequences of our impending decisions and actions. For example today when my phone went missing, initially I was extremely worried because the phone contained all my passwords and I was worried of the consequences of what would happen if it got into the wrong hands. It took me a while to realise that the missing phone was an iPhone with a complicated password that very few people knew and also that I would be able to lock it remotely if I lost it forever. However the phone had just fallen out of my pocket near my clinic and it was returned to me by those who found it.

Let’s look at the stress diagram below. It is said that a picture can say a 1000 words!

Stress is what happens to you when you are faced with a difficult situation. Stress is what happens to you before you make your mind up, before you make your decision to take action! Every stimulus demands an action. And in this gap lies STRESS! Most of us think about what happens after our actions and worry if the decision and subsequent actions are the best options to take and of how it would affect us! So fear sets in before the decision is made, adrenaline is secreted in the body, the heart starts to race, the BP shoot skywards and a whole set of stress hormones are released causing palpitations, headaches, sweating, tiredness and more. Once the decision is taken, the pressure is off and things slowly return to normal. When this happens repeatedly, it damages the body from within causing various diseases. (hypertension, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes etc).

I could make a few recommedations to you on how to handle stress.

1. The first way would be to take your own time to respond to a particular stressor. Most often we are under pressure to react immediately. e.g., if someone hits the car you are driving from behind, most of us would react by flying into a rage, confronting the offender, abusing him and sometimes even throwing punches. What if you could keep your cool, empathise with the other person and DECIDE not to lose your temper no matter what! If you could handle this situation without losing your temper you could reduce stress considerably. You could decide to give 10 min before your reaction.

2. Having a positive and happy outlook to life will also reduce your stress levels significantly. I have a friend who constantly broods that the world (or the system that is currently running our world) is coming to an end and that there will be anarchy and mayhem. Such a negative worldview would definitely handicap your handling the difficult situations in your life. How bad can life be if you imangined that the whole world is conspiring against you and people are out to get you!

3. Dont worry about consequences when you are choosing your decisions and actions. Decision paralysis leads to stress. Decisions can be changed and your course can be corrected at a later time. Nothing is final and nothing would cause irremediable harm to anyone. Staying in motion reduces stress so make your decisions and take your actions, correct course if you dont like the results of your decision but move on! Dont Stop!

4. You can only change yourself! You cant change anyone else in this world. A story has been told about a man who tried to change the world in his youth. In his middle age, he decided that the world could not be corrected and so decided to change his children. In his old age , he realised that he couldnt change his children and so attempted to change his loving wife of 50 yrs (unsuccessfully). Only on his deathbed did he realise that his life would have been very much easier if he had changed himself instead of trying to change others. So dont expect the world to change for you and you can change if you dont allow your ego to stop you.

5. Ask for help. You will be surprised how many will turn out to help you when you ask them to! The world is full of good people wanting to help their friends. Having helpful friends will reduce stress.

6. Always be on solution mode. Thinking of problems all the time leads to stress. Find solutions to problems, take decisions and don’t expect your decisions to be perfect. If you are wrong, apologize unreservedly and move on. Ask for help unashamedly. You only live once, why stress about anything. After you have made your best choice/ decision, accept whatever follows and keep moving.

7. Exercise daily and exercise well. A fit body can handle all the stress that life throws at it.

Coffee in the news!

Coffee is a stimulant with caffeine as the active ingredient. It acts by activating the central nervous system. It can counteract tiredness and improve concentration and focus. Caffeine has very many effects on the body apart from increasing mental alertness. It can also cause an increase in the heartrate, BP and can make you feel warm on a cold day Caffeinated drinks, especially coffee, teas (regular as well as green tea) energy drinks and colas are popular throughout the world and are drunk by people of nearly all age groups. Below are excerpts from a few articles about coffee that I have recently read online, which may be of interest to you. If so …….read on.

Daily coffee intake may benefit the heart

There used to be a time when coffee was believed to be harmful to the heart and was discouraged. But recently even people who have suffered a heart attack are not denied their daily cuppa. Even in those without heart disease, drinking coffee can increase the heart rate and some people worry that this could trigger off a heart attack or an arrhythmia (palpitations). Recently there was a publication by the American College of cardiology reporting that coffee intake specially 2-3 cups a day may actually be good for the heart. In the UK they has followed patients for a 10 year period They divided patients into groups according to the number of cups of coffee that they consumed. The groups were <1, 1 to 2 cups,2-3 cups, 4 to 5 cups and lastly 5 or more cups a day and they found that, those who had 2-3 cups of coffee a day had a 10 to 15% lower risk of developing heart disease (coronary heart disease), heart failure, heart rhythm problems and from dying from any cause. In another study done on people already having some kind of cardiovascular disease at baseline, 3 cups a day was associated with a lower risk of dying. So the take home message was that having 2-3 cups of coffee a day may actualy do you good in the long run.

Drinking 2 or more cups of coffee by patients with severe hypertension ups the mortality!
This article was published in the Journal of the American heart association reported from Japan found that when hypertensive people (defined as those with BP >160/100) who take 2 or more cups of coffee had a higher death rate. This is not seen in people who take less in 1 cup of coffee or people who had well controlled or NO severe hypertension.

High caffeine levels may lower body mass index, fat index and type 2 diabetes risks!
A study done from Sweden had shown that 2 gene variations results in genetically predicted lifelong higher caffeine concentration in the blood and this was associated with a lower body mass index, lower body fat mass and a lower risk for diabetes mellitus. 50% of the benefits in preventing diabetes comes from reduction of the body mass index or a body weight. Coffee has been known to be thermogenic. I.e. it increases the fat burn. The authors cautions that further studies need to be done before linking caffeine consumption with prevention of diabetes, i.e. it does not prove cause and effect relation between caffeine and and diabetes prevention.

Although there may seem to be many contradictions regarding the benefits of coffee in health , this may be due to different study populations, different methodologies and dfferent interpretations. It may be safe to conclude that coffee consumption is indeed safe. Despite coffee’s various effects on the body it may have some benfits to those driniking it. However, based on currently available evidence in medical literature, it probably cannot be recommended to non drinkers (of coffee) to improve their health at this point in time.

In the News – March 2023

NEW COVID variant cause sticky red eyes!
There is a new Covid variant named Arcturus which in some people’s opinion gives children itchy or sticky eyes similar to conjunctivitis. Previously the so-called “Madras Eye” used to be caused mostly by Adeno virus. Arcturus Virus used to be called Omicron subvariant XBB.1 .16 has landed on the WHO’s radars after surfacing in India. It has been touted by many as the “one to watch” virus for this year.

HIV cured by stem cell transplantation.
53-year-old man who was suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia in 2013 was treated with stem cells known to have an HIV resistant mutation. Researchers had found that the immune cells in the patient’s body has reacted to the HIV virus and has stopped its multiplication . This patient was declared cured of HIV and has since stopped taking ART (antiretroviral therapy). This man referred to as the “Düsseldorf patient” is the fifth person to be declared cured of HIV in the world. However, this treatment with stem cell transplantation is unlikely to be offered to HIV positive patients who don’t have leukaemia. It is believed that there are 38 million people worldwide living with HIV at this point in time.

Chickpea flour bread can keep you fuller for longer and reduce your sugars if you are diabetic!
Bread made with new ingredients I.e.,chickpea flour has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels after eating and also helps to keep people feeling full for a longer period of time. This obviously has great benefits for people with diabetes and are overweight. Replacing 30% of the wheat flour with chickpea flour has been shown in a recent study to release certain satiety signals from the gut to the brain thereby making people feel fuller . This is also shown to reduce the post meal blood glucose rise by up to 40% after having this special bread made of chickpea flour. This is in keeping with the usual advice for diabetics and those are overweight to reduce their consumption of refined or polished grains and increase their intake of high fibre containing foods. Legumes like chick peas are also being widely recommended for the same reasons in that they have more complex Carbohydrates (difficult to digest) associated with a reduction in the post meal blood glucose spikes and they ofcourse give you more proteins, especially for Diabetics and vegetarians.