Stress can wreck havoc on your health. And if you have asthma, you no doubt know that stress can cause asthma symptoms.
The signs and symptoms of stress range from the benign to the dramatic – from simply feeling tired at the end of the day to having a heart attack. Researchers estimate that 75 percent to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for complaints and conditions that are, in some way, related to stress. And every week, approximately 112 million people take some form of medication for stress-related symptoms.
Combine stress and asthma, and the result can be shortness of breath, panic attacks, a feeling of anxiousness, and a whole lot of worrying. In short, when stress rears its ugly head and you have asthma, you may trigger an asthma attack.“Asthma can be set off by stress, but I am not sure that anyone fully understands why,” says Dr. Marjorie L. Slankard, Clinical Professor of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Usually there would be other underlying predisposing factors such as genetics and allergies, and other triggers, such as exercise or respiratory tract infections. In general, however, stress can make any medical condition worse.”
When someone with asthma experiences significant stress, they are at risk for an asthma attack. And, unfortunately, many people fail to recognize the correlation between stress and asthma.
Learning how to deal with – and prevent – stress is an important step for everyone with asthma. Keep these “stress-busting” tips in mind:
1. Watch your attitude. You can consciously change your thought process from a negative one to a positive one, which can go a long way in determining how you feel. The next time you find yourself in a situation that calls for an attitude adjustment, take a few moments and clear your mind. Then take a deep breath and relax before you respond.
2. Identify the stressors in your life. Make a list of what bothers you: financial issues, family problems, work worries, etc. Seeing what may be causing the trouble may help you find practical solutions, rather than suffer “worry” for no discernible reason.
3. Learn how to cope with the stressors in your life. Now that you have a list, make a plan on how you will deal with each of them. If you cannot do it on your own, get professional help, be it a therapist or a professional organizer.
4. Create a stress management plan. This will help you to learn how to avoid scenarios that cause stress, and trigger an asthma attack. It can be as simple as learning how to delegate, or learning how to relax.
5. Get up and get moving. Everyone can always use some more exercise, so get up and get moving. Exercise helps keep you fit and in shape, and can also reduce stress. When you exercise, your brain produces endorphins, the “feel good” hormone that can boost your mood.
6. Go to bed on time. Recent studies reveal that most people are not getting enough sleep, which may lead to several health problems. Lack of sleep may also exacerbate the effect of stress on the body. Regardless of age, most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
7. Eat your fruits and vegetables. Your mother was right: eat more fresh fruits and vegetables to be healthier. These foods can provide you with more energy and prevent other chronic conditions.
8. Learn how to delegate. Stop trying to do everything yourself. Teach your family how to chip in and do their fair share of the household chores.
9. Learn how to relax. Take the time to practice a variety of relaxation exercises, including deep breathing, meditating, and releasing of muscle tension.
10. Take care of yourself. This might be difficult to accomplish, but you need to learn how to take care of yourself first,then think of others. For example, get a massage, take a vacation, read a good book, or even take a walk in the park or around your neighborhood regularly to unwind. It’s easier and less stressful to take care of others when you feel better.
John Riddle is a freelance writer and author from Delaware. Visit www.ilovetowriteday.org for more info.