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Guest column | Dr. Rao Musunuru

Don't let stress ruin the holidays

Most of the patients have one common explanation for their different ailments ­­— stress. And nobody can tell me what that exactly means. "I am under a lot of stress," is all they say.

The dictionary defines stress (a noun) as "a factor that induces bodily or mental tension or a state induced by such a stress.'' That really does not tell me much.

The medical definition of mental stress is a "disagreeable feeling or threatening factor accompanied by sympathetic overactivity." I do not think people read this before deciding they are under stress.

The commonsense explanation is "stress results when environmental demands exceed a person's resources to meet those demands."

Innate biological, immune, and behavioral responses to stress cause many immediate and long-term adverse affects on many organs in the body. Many times, a person has no immediate control over the acute (example: disease or death in the family) or chronic (example: low socioeconomic status) factors that cause stress. The important issue is how much stress is self-induced and unknowingly self-promoted. Even more important is how a person handles it. As Evangelical pastor Charles Swindoll said, "Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it."

The most common reasons for self-induced stress include jealousy, hatred, anger, ignorance, impatience, arrogance, greed and fear.

Unfortunately, stress increases around the holidays. A 2006 survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research found people are more likely to feel their stress increase because the holidays can be hectic for many dealing with strained finances, a lack of time and the hype and commercialism of the season.

Of course, there are stress reducers. There is enormous scientific evidence that faith heals. Religion is a good medicine to treat stress in the right dose. When overused, it leads to resistance and when misused, it can lead to disaster.

Good physical health leads to good mental health and vice versa. Meditation, yoga, prayer, and relaxation exercises can keep one away from medications. Meditation is nothing other than focused awareness, a method of breaking habitual patterns of thought.

Consider the wisdom of the Dalai Lama who said, "man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health and then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present. The result being that he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he is never going to die and then dies, having never really lived."

Just as important, consider the wisdom of vocalist Bobby McFerrin.

He told us, "Don't worry, be happy.''

Even around the holidays.

Rao Musunuru is a cardiologist in practice at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson.

Don't let stress ruin the holidays 12/20/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 20, 2013 1:13pm]

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