No matter how hard we try, there are some things in life that are simply unavoidable. Some of the most infuriating are escalating food prices, rush hour traffic jams, paying taxes and gas prices that seem to be increasing by the hour. But there’s one that seems to burrow into the body and mind and has a much greater negative affect. The destructive and inescapable monster is stress.
Stress Awareness Month, which is sponsored by The Health Resource Network in the U.S., is held every April and health professionals want more people to be aware of the negative effects that stress can have on our lives.
According to Health Canada, stress can be described as the body’s way of responding to both physical and emotional demands. When a person confronts a situation, whether it is life-threatening or a simple day-to-day occurrence, the body releases chemicals into the blood to boost energy and strength. When the situation is life-threatening, the “fight or flight” instinct kicks in and the stress chemical works in a positive way. Scientists believe that this is how our ancestors learned how to cope with the threats and uncertainties of the new world. However, when the situation is emotional, such as a work problem or money issues, the stress has no outlet and the person suffers in a negative way.
Everyone suffers from stress, and, according to a poll done by Ipsos for the Associated Press, 76 per cent of Canadians suffer from stress in their daily lives.
Stress can cause many negative effects on people, both long and short term. According to a study done by researchers at the American Psychological Association (APA), the pressure and stress of exams caused several students to develop acne, regardless of how much sleep they got or what they ate. After the exams, the acne completely went away. The APA says other negative effects include moodiness, memory problems, insomnia, nausea, aches and pains, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Other than having to tie her blond, mermaid-like hair back into a hairnet, Michelle Medeiros, an employee at Ottervalley Foods, says the one thing she wishes she could change about her job is the amount of stress she deals with on a daily basis.
The Tillsonburg-based business makes frozen meals such as lasagne, rice bowls and cabbage rolls for M&M Meat Shops and various grocery stores. Medeiros endures long days working on every section of the conveyer belt and has every duty from cutting cabbage and spooning tomato sauce onto the freshly wrapped rolls, to lifting the heavily packed containers onto the cart that will then be frozen and ready for boxing and shipping.
Medeiros says the fast-moving belt is the most stressful part of the job and has complained to her supervisor that the belt moves too quickly, but in order for the employees to finish their jobs at a decent time, they have to move at a rapid pace.
“I didn’t think it would be such a stressful job but I feel the tension almost every day,” she says. “If you can’t finish your job fast enough, the other people working ahead of you on the conveyer belt have to do what you missed and obviously they get mad. All of that pressure makes it hard to keep up.”
In order to try and temporarily relieve stress, some people rely on coping strategies such as sleeping too much, smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs. Unfortunately, these methods usually make the problems worse.