Are you suddenly feeling strange, and a little bit tired, edgy and unwell? The chances are that your body is reacting to the sudden onslaught of stress from returning to your day to day life, after a relaxing couple of weeks away from it all at the end of December.
As a GP of 18 years, Dr. Chatterjee is no stranger to the myriad of health issues that stress can cause, and he’s written a book ‘The Stress Solution’ to help people deal with it. The much-loved doctor and TV personality is determined to help reduce the stress epidemic that he says is taking over today’s society.
“The World Heath Organisation calls stress, ‘The Heath Epidemic of the 21st Century’ which is remarkable in itself,” he points out.
Thankfully, Dr. Chatterjee has clear, concise and simple advice to share.
Do you think people are more stressed today or just less equipped to deal with it?
“I actually think we are more stressed,” he admits. “Our lives are getting busier, there’s more things to do, there’s more expectation. We are juggling so many different things. You only have to look at my job as a GP. Even in the last five years I’m seeing a gradual increase in the amount of things that are related to the stress in our lives.”
Has technology added to our stress?
“Well on the one hand, technology has simplified things for us, but in many ways it has complicated things ever further. For many of us the boundaries between home and work life have been blurred. You use your mobile phone for personal and work stuff. You check your phone at the weekend. Constantly being connected is having a serious consequence on our health.”
What sort of conditions do you see as a GP which you believe are stress related?
“I would say approximately 80% of what a GP like me sees every day is in some way related to stress. Things like anxiety, insomnia, poor memory, inability to concentrate, low libido, gut problems, even things like obesity and type 2 diabetes. All of these which seem like separate symptoms have the same key driver which is stress.
“Once you understand what the stress response is and what it’s there to do you can see how it impacts every organ in the body.”
Can you explain what happens to the body when we’re stressed?
“The key point to make clear is that not all stress is bad. We need a bit of stress. A little bit of stress turns us into the best version of ourselves. What I mean by that is when the stress response was evolving a couple of million years ago it was designed to keep us safe. So if we were being attacked by a wild animal a serious of physiological processes would kick into gear to help keep you safe.
“Sugar would pour into your blood stream so you could run faster. Your blood pressure would go up so more blood could get to your brain. You would become hypervigilant to the threat.
“But if nowadays if your stress response is not from being attacked by a lion but by your daily life – whether it’s emails, tweets, kids or elderly parents you’re caring for – that’s not good.”
Why is that?
“Suddenly the things that are helpful in the short term, like sugar pouring into your blood stream, become harmful, especially if it’s happening every day. It will lead to low energy, weight gain and ultimately type 2 diabetes. High blood pressure while you’re trying to escape something is brilliant, but if that’s happening day in and day out then it leads to heart attacks and strokes. The same goes for being on high alert. That’s great for 30 mins, but if that’s happening all the time it’s called anxiety. Stress responses are designed to keep you safe in the face of danger the problem now is that that danger is perceived as coming from the fabric of our daily lives.”
If you can’t eradicate stress entirely are there ways you can at least up your stress threshold?
“You’re right that I can’t magically remove the stresses from someone’s life. But we do all have our own personal stress thresholds. It’s when we get to our threshold that we get stressed and get anxious. We become overly emotional. We get angry when we are at our threshold but the point is that we are accumulating what I call in the book ‘micro stress sensors’ from the moment we wake up. They are everywhere. So you get closer and closer to that threshold as the day goes on. You therefore need moments in your day when you can almost take yourself away from the threshold.”
If you’re feeling as though stress is getting the better of you then consult your healthcare provider in person, with a list of physical symptoms. You can also try meditation and yoga classes which have been show in studies to help ease stress. To find out more about Dr Rangan follow him on Instagram and see his website.