Stress and anxiety – everyone has different triggers and management techniques. However, sometimes the symptoms can be more extreme with GP’s now seeing physically healthy women in their 20s and 30s experiencing intense pain in their chest and down one arm as a response to stress and anxiety, not a heart attack.
In this video, with Channel 9 Perth, Dr Tamara Hunter discusses the dangers of stress. Dr Hunter says that “Stress is a very physical and emotional response to external triggers and environmental stressors. We all respond differently to different environmental triggers. Some people get stressed from public speaking or a fear of heights can make others stressed and some people not. So it is very individual.”
She continues on to discuss a survey held in 2015 by the Australian Psychological Society that found that “26% of Australians are reporting higher than normal anxiety levels and in fact, anxiety as a whole is expressed far more than it was in the previous 5 years of the survey. So we are seeing an overall higher level of anxiety and stress.” With 1 in 2 stating that financial issues we a primary cause for stress and also conflict with family and friends, everyone has different trigger points. An interesting development is that Social Media has had an impact on stress and anxiety levels. The development of the FOMO phenomenon (also known as a “fear of missing out”), making people become stressed and anxious at the prospect of not partaking in an event and the fear of missing out.
There are physical symptoms of stress to be aware of. Dr Hunter discusses that “Stress is a very physiological response in all of us. We call it The Stress or the fight or flight response and we all experience it in response to different triggers. So our blood pressure goes up, our heart rate goes up, our respiratory rate goes up – causing possible palpitations and hyperventilation. Blood sugars go up, our muscles become quite tense particularly around the head and neck. So that’s a very common stress response by all.”
It is a different situation if you have an underlying medical condition. Dr Hunter states that “if people have an underlining medical condition that can get tipped over the edge by that, such as cardio vascular disease. That can manifest as angina or even a heart attack. So it is really important to go and see your health care practitioner and make sure there is nothing pathological underlying your symptoms.”
While medication has become a default for some to manage stress and anxiety, there are other tools we can utilise before turning to pharmaceutical companies. Dr Hunter states that “it is really important to talk to your health care practitioner. Particularly if you are finding it difficult to cope with everyday daily activities. So anti-anxiety medication is part of the process but they are not the only management. Cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation technique, sitting down with a psychologist and working through those techniques. But things that we can do on a daily basis is spending time with friends and family, getting plenty of sleep, exercise. Sometimes reading and listening to music is really important and I always think that time management techniques are really key to managing stress and anxiety.”