Are you Taking Stress Very Lightly? - The New Indian Express

Are you Taking Stress Very Lightly?

Published: 12th February 2014 10:14 AM

Last Updated: 12th February 2014 10:14 AM

Shital is a stressed mom these days. Her husband works six weeks in USA and another six in Bangalore. When he is not around, she takes care of the family which includes his mother, her parents and her two daughters. Her older daughter Aarohi is in the tenth standard and her final examinations are fast approaching. Shital has taken a break from work so that she can help and guide her.

Shital says, “Even before the child can think about career options or the parents can identify the likes and dislikes of the student, the system and the competition close most options. For instance, if you do not have X marks in maths, quite a few career options are out.”

Aarohi is afraid she may blank out during the examinations, no matter how hard she has prepared for it.

Shital has all kinds of worries on her plate but Aarohi’s studies and her upcoming class tenth examinations top the list.

“Stress is an exaggerated response to the environment felt by plants, animals as well as humans,” says Dr Chandran Gnanamuthu, chief neurologist at Sakra World Hospitals. Today’s lifestyle does not leave a lot of room for people to go skylarking. They are expected to be up and going at all times. The expectation of matching with the rest is what makes stress very harmful.

Dr Murali Raj, head, Department of Psychiatry at Manipal Hospitals, says, “Stress can affect people at any age, even children, though this was unheard of earlier.”

Dr Raj adds that times now are competitive and children are being pushed too hard. Stress in children and adults come from the inside, he says, when constantly compared to others.

Children under stress

Parents are to blame for stress in children, says Dr Raj. They put pressure for achievements and have a total lack of empathy. He says, “Children need support and, at least, parents must lend that support.”

Dr Diwakar says, “Stress in parents is directly proportional to stress in children.” He suggests spending more time with children and giving them a lot of support and a sense of faith.

Ramanujam Sridhar, counsellor, helps and guides many distressed individuals at Vishwas, a voluntary organisation in Bangalore. He talks about a teacher who had brought her own child to be counselled as she was stressed. He found that the child was being pushed by his own parents beyond her capabilities and was stressed out as she could not do what was expected of her.

He says, “Causes for stress could be many. Sexual abuse is an important cause for stress in children. “

He elaborates, “Adopted children face issues of rejection. They feel they have been rejected by their biological parents and their adoption centre. When they are told they have been adopted, they feel lost. They may also not be able to cope with studies and adoptive parents cannot come to terms with their child’s limitations. This leads to huge stress on both sides.”

All consuming

Stress affects plants, animals and people albeit in different ways.

There is good stress and bad stress, say the doctors. The trick is in being able to differentiate  - use good stress to perform better and reduce bad stress.

Stress makes some fall ill, and causes anxiety disorders in some and offsets depression in others.

Dr Ravindranath says, “Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis get worse when people are stressed out.” So pain in joints increases, fingers swell and life becomes difficult.

Marital stress can be harmful and lead to hurtful consequences, says Dr Gnanamuthu.

Mars versus venus

Men and women handle stress in different ways. Professor Vijaylakshmi Ravindranath, director of Centre for Neurosciences at IISc says, “The burden of stress on women is huge as they work outside the home as well as inside. We lack the comfort of joint families. “

She goes on to say, “The link between brain system and immune system is well known today. One tends to fall sick when one is stressed.”

She quotes an experiment by Candace Pert, an American brain scientist, on rats. Out of two groups of rats, one was immobilised (physically stressed) and exposed to a low dose of the flu virus. The other group was just exposed to the virus. Rats that could not move fell sick with flu while others did not. This established the link between stress and illness and the field of psychoneuroimmunology was born.

“Both, men and women handle stress differently,” says Ravindranath. Men handle acute stress better while women handle chronic stress better.”

Health issues

If you thought stress leads only to mental problems, there is bad news for you. It causes physical problems and conditions that are an outcome of both mental and physical health issues.

Dr Diwakar Goutham of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology Department at Narayana Health City says, “Stress causes diabetes, blood pressure, anxiety and depression. Obesity and acidity in children. In adults too, all the above may occur due to stress. In addition infertility can occur, too.”

People under stress can easily get addicted to tobacco, alcohol or the Internet which seem to give pleasure for a while until it leads to disorders. Stressed out children try to feel better by smoking and drinking which can be harmful.

“There was a patient, a woman who heard voices that were not really there. She began to listen to music on the way to work and whenever she was free. The voices disappeared and she became calmer,” says Dr Raj.

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