Howard and Journal Health/Medical Section, July 20, 1998

Stress and how to cope with it

By Andrea Vargo

Stress is a hormonal adaptation that the human body goes through during stressful situations, said Kevin White, D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) of the Ridgeview-Howard Lake Medical Clinic.

White said that stress acts on the gastro-intestinal tract, heart, thyroid, kidneys, and other organs.

"It is the fight or flight response, and the mind controls the situation," he said.

It can build, situation upon situation, and become very taxing to the body's systems, he said.

"Stress is what people make it," said Katie Trimble, P.A.-C (Physicians Assistant-Certified).

It is a very individual thing, and there are things that affect how people handle it, she said.

Some of these things are based on past experiences, and what is a normal response for that person as to how to handle a situation.

"You may have heard of serotonin. It is one of the medical things that affect stress," said Trimble.

Trimble explained, " We don't actually give serotonin. What is involved is the serotonin receptor site.

"Some people don't have enough active receptor sites, and these people tend not to be able to cope with situations."

It can be a true chemical imbalance, she said.

So, what is given to the patient is something that can enhance the function of these receptor sites, Trimble said.

St. John's Wort or some types of drugs can be given to discover if a lack of active receptor site function is really the problem, said Trimble.

"All the studies show that these things work," she said.

If the St. John's Wort doesn't make a difference in the way a person feels, then there may be other reasons for a stress problem, she explained.

"Remember, what may be an everyday situation to one person, may be a catastrophe to another," said Trimble.

Moms yell at their kids when they get stressed. A lot of times people try to do too much, said Trimble.

Coping with stress

Physical touch is important, and we don't do enough of it, said White.

"When I listen to someone's lungs, I put one hand on the person's shoulder, and I can just feel them relax," said Trimble.

Physical activity is very important, they agreed.

"I like to see a person walk 20 minutes per day, five times per week," Trimble stated.

It doesn't matter what speed they maintain, but they should get outside if they can, she said.

"Everyone owes it to themselves," she said.

Other things that can help relieve stress are a well-balanced diet and eliminating caffeine from that diet, said Trimble.

"We've all been told to drink eight glasses of water every day, but how many of us do it?" she asked.

"If someone told you your body was like a septic system and would plug up if you didn't pour eight glasses of water down it every day, you probably would pour the water down the drain every day," said Trimble.

"People need to take responsibility for themselves," she said. "All these things make you feel so much better."

When you lay awake at night and can't turn your mind off, that is harmful to your health, said Trimble.

Learning not to worry about things is a healing process, she said.

Sometimes there is a need to get professional help with these first steps to let go of the things that can't be controlled, Trimble explained.

For the advanced person who has already gotten past the first steps, there is yoga and meditation.

She said the Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia has bio-feedback, as well as a host of other help for the person with stress problems.

"Truly, stress relief has to come from within, and then the stress will be a lower factor in your life," she stated.

Stress causes physiological problems. The first step is to see a medical doctor to determine if the symptoms are due to a physical problem.

If it is not a physical problem, then the next step is to explore other options, whatever they might be, said Trimble.

"Remember, don't sweat the small stuff," she said.

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