STRESS MANAGEMENT

Stress Management Improves Kidney Health

Stress Management

Stress management is seldom considered to be a necessary requirement of personal health care, but it should be.  While some measure of stress is inevitable, failure to manage or reduce stress levels can lead to depression, diseases and the inability to truly enjoy life.

Every day we are faced with challenges on our jobs, at school, in our families, and our personal lives.  Our ability to manage stress, determines how well we cope with life's challenges.  It is important that we understand how to respond to and deal with challenges, in order to minimize their harmful effects on our health and well-being.

While it may NOT be possible to completely avoid stressful situations, how we respond to those seemingly stressful situations is really important.  Stress affects not only our mental, physical and emotional well-being but it can also affect kidney health.  Major organs such as the heart and kidneys are susceptible to the harmful effects of excessive stress.  

The Effects of Stress on the Body

The body reacts to stress in three (3) stages:

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Stage 1

Alarm Stage

This initial reaction may trigger such short-term symptoms as tense neck and shoulder muscles, inability to sleep, constipation, irritability, and fatigue. These symptoms will usually disappear as you begins to cope with the problem. The body's immediate physical responses include:

  • Increase in heart rate and respiration rate

  • Increase in blood pressure

  • Elevation in blood sugar levels (to provide energy)

  • Increase in muscular tension

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Stage 2

Resistance Stage

During this stage the body attempts to adjust and return to normal.

 

The heart and respiration rate decrease and hormones are secreted, which give the body the energy to cope. This phase may be of very short duration.  If, however, the problem persists, the third stage may occur.

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Stage 3

Exhaustion Stage

Prolonged stress can affect the body in a number of ways. If allowed to continue long enough, and your body cannot cope with the stress, you may suffer from short term effects such as headaches, diarrhea, dizziness, and fatigue. 

Long term stress over weeks or even years, may affect the heart, kidneys, blood pressure, stomach, muscles, and joints, and may cause severe headaches, depression, and fatigue.

Stress Management Techniques

Since it is almost impossible to avoid stress altogether, it is important to learn how to manage stress.  To minimize the risk of developing kidney failure, heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, and other related conditions, basic stress management techniques are essential.

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Keep things in perspective

Our perception, or the way we view a problem, determines our response and stress level. It helps greatly if you are able to keep your problems in focus or perspective, in order to develop an appropriate reaction. Everyone experiences annoyances such as having to wait in lines or being stuck in traffic. The initial response of most people is to become annoyed or worried. Instead, you should make a conscious effort to avoid this response and try to relax.

 

Some things are outside of your control and it is pointless and unhealthy to worry or fuss about them. Try focusing on something else that is more pleasant and positive. Sing, whistle, listen to music... do something positive to take your mind off the problem.

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Practice assertive behavior

When dealing with problems try to be assertive rather than aggressive. The theory of assertive behavior is that every person has certain basic rights. If those rights are being infringed, then by all means address it... but in a civilized, confident manner. If you have to address the person responsible for causing your problems, maintain eye contact with them, stand or sit straight and steady, and speak confidently in a clear voice. This stress management technique is not always easy, but as you practice it your confidence will begin to increase and you will become better at it. You will find that problems are resolved much more easily and you will maintain a much lower stress level.

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Be realistic when setting goals

Realistic goal setting may sound simple but is an important stress management technique. Very often we set unrealistic goals and then become frustrated and stressed-out when we do not achieve them. The key to proper goal setting is to first understand exactly what it will take to accomplish a particular goal, then assess whether you are equipped to realistically achieve it. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Do I have the finances?

  • Do I have the time?

  • Do I have the expertise?

  • Do I have the energy?

  • Do I have the tools?

  • Do I have the resources?

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Learn time management

Time management involves setting priorities and allocating sufficient time to accomplish your tasks.

Keep an appointment book or calendar to organize your time and remind yourself of important dated and events. At the beginning of each day, write down task and events in order of priority. Next to each event or task, write the estimated time it would take to complete it. Don't try to crowd too many things into one day. Make allowances for setbacks and allow yourself time to relax. At the end of each day or at the beginning of the following day, evaluate your list to see what was accomplished and use it as a guide when preparing your next list.

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Watch your diet and limit certain foods

Consumption of certain foods can cause chemical reactions that leave you feeling irritated. Eating foods with high amounts of caffeine, such as colas, chocolate, coffee and some teas, and foods with high concentrations of sugar, such as candies and some snacks, can cause you to be irritable and less able to cope with stress.

Eating a nutritious, balanced diet will help you look good and perform better, making you less susceptible to stress. A balanced diet is not only necessary for optimizing health but is also an effective stress management technique.

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Exercise to reduce stress

Exercise can be a very beneficial way to reduce stress. It will use up the excess adrenaline produced to prepare you for the fight or flight response, allowing your heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure to return to normal.

 

In addition, as you exercise you improve your fitness level, which will keep you from being easily fatigued and better able to cope with negative stressors. Similar to diet, exercise is multi-purpose. It is necessary for health optimization and it can also be an effective stress management technique.

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Learn stress diversion activities

Another useful stress management technique is to participate in activities that can reduce, eliminate, or divert tension. Such activities include:

  • Listening to your favorite music

  • Play an instrument

  • Take a long walk

  • Take a trip to the beach, park, or shopping mall

  • Read a good book

  • Take time to enjoy your pet

  • Go to a movie or to the zoo

  • Work on a hobby or craft - write, paint, create something

  • Participate in sports or recreational activities

  • Learn something new - a new language or skill

  • Research things of interest - surf the Internet.

Stress management and the ability to cope with stress are important skills for maintaining good physical and mental health.  Failure to manage stress or reduce stress can lead to illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, stomach ulcers, neck and lower back pains, bowel problems, anxiety, and kidney problems.

Stress can also affect certain skin conditions, such as acne and hives.  To avoid or minimize many of these conditions, implement and practice at least some of the stress management techniques outlined above.