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Chi-Chi photo Chi-Chi · 18 Aug, 2020

Stressed out? Here Chi Chi explains the impact stress can have on us - and why we need to take it seriously, particularly if it goes on for a long time.

I'm Dr. Chi-Chi Obuaya, consultant psychiatrist. As part of the Headstrong series, I'm gonna be talking about stress.

I'd like you to imagine the scariest situation you've ever faced in your life. What was going through your head and how did your body feel at the time? I imagine it might have been so terrifying you actually thought that your life was in danger.

Now, this is really what we call the flight, fight or freeze response and that's when a hormone circulates around your body, it's called adrenaline. And that can lead to physical reactions that include sweats, having a tummy upset, having a lump in your throat, having palpitations, so that very fast beating of your heart, and even having chest pain to the extent that you think something's wrong with your heart.

On top of that we have what we call psychological symptoms of anxiety. So feeling very anxious, restless, or irritable, and that's okay if there's a real danger, but the problem occurs that if that response is sustained and there isn't actually a danger, it's not a healthy situation to be in. And so we refer to anxiety as a situation where we either feel that we're not able to overcome the circumstances or that the situation itself is too much to bear.

And anyone can become stressed. We all go through it in our lives and it can be really good in certain situations. So if you've got a sporting event and you need to perform really well, having a bit of stress is a good thing, but if it's there for long periods of time, it can affect things like our ability to study or to work.

It can also affect our relationships and our sleep and we might get problems that cause us to find other coping mechanisms. So drinking alcohol too much and too often or taking drugs are some of the ways that people cope with prolonged stress.

So there are different types of anxiety disorder that can occur, but managing stress doesn't mean that you have a mental illness as such. It just means that you need to pay attention to things like sleep, nutrition and structure, things that you can actually control in your day.

Being mindful also of access to devices and whether that might make your stress a bit worse and also having fun activities to do.

So it might be simple things like meeting up with your friends, playing sport, doing yoga or meditation. So do think of simple measures to manage your stress and if you need to get help, whether it's from your GP or a teacher or a priest or a social worker, don't be afraid to do so. Thank you.


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