By Dr. Yael Varnado.

Not only does stress make us feel anxious, uptight and worried, it can affect every organ system in the body from the brain and heart to the gastrointestinal and immune systems.

Stress leads to high blood pressure, headaches, heart attacks, and stroke. Frequently stress leads to a lack of sleep which can cause a weakened immune system and the inability to fight off disease and infection, as the body normally rejuvenates and repairs itself during the time we sleep.

Can a negative, nasty campaign — and contentious political media reports and ads take a toll on our health?

Absolutely, says Dr. Yael Varnado. Anything in your life whether it is work, school, relationships, or today’s political campaigns can cause stress in your life. Stress can manifest into physical and emotional pressure that can lead to health problems. But don’t worry, the key to coping with stress is identifying the stressors in your life and learning ways to cope with and reduce them.

What’s the best way to defuse angry political arguments at home, with family, friends or co-workers?

The old adage is true, DO NOT talk about religion or politics at work. If you just can’t say NO to talking about the ongoing political campaigns at the water cooler at work PLEASE at least don’t do it in circumstances where you jeopardize your job and WALK away when you feel you are getting hot under the collar.

As in any circumstance in life think about what you are saying before you say it. Always be respectful of another individual’s position and freedom of speech and thought. A little bit of banter and intellectual conversation is healthy. However, at the point where conversations become angry, threatening, and physical WALK AWAY and (in the case at work if the conversation or comments become inappropriate or threatening contact the HR manager). You may not like it but we are all entitled to our individual opinions and beliefs. Even in cases of family or friends, you don’t have to listen WALK AWAY!

Do you think other stresses (i.e. jobs, finances, housing/ foreclosure issues and unemployment) are contributing to stress levels this election season?

Yes, we all have things going on in our own lives that cause us stress. For many of us our stressors are the exact issues candidates are talking about and therefore these issues hit us close to home. We are passionate about them and they can easily cause us physical and emotional stress. Come November 3rd a decision in one direction or another on a certain issue could very well mean loss of life, money, and home to some people.

What are some indications that you may be experiencing more than simply routine stress/anxiety…and may need to see a professional or get help?

The body is an amazing system it sends us cues even though we don’t always listen!

Emotional Warning Signs:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Anger
  • Inability to concentrate Unproductive worry
  • Sadness
  • Frequent mood swings

Physical Warning Signs

Headaches, Excessive Sweating, Chronic fatigue, Weight loss/gain, Constipation/diarrhea, Back pain/Neck pain, Physical symptoms your doctor cannot explain

Behavioral Warning signs:

  • Over-reacting
  • Acting impulsive
  • Abusing Alcohol/drugs
  • Increasing smoking
  • Using
  • Changing jobs often
  • Feeling agitated

If you are experiencing any of these aforementioned issues as a result of stress – it’s absolutely time to see a professional.

Can you provide 3-5 tips for easing stress and anxiety — regardless of what’s causing it (elections, family difficulties, job stress…)

  1. Learn to express your feelings in appropriate ways: let people know when something is bothering you. Keeping feelings of anger inside will drain you and lead to problems.
  2. Be assertive NOT aggressive: “Assert” your feelings, opinions, and beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.
  3. Think before you act: Emotions are powerful. Before you say or do something you might regret, stop, breathe, and think about the possible positive and negative consequences.
  4. Work out that anger: Go for a walk or run, meditate, do yoga, clean the house, find a physical activity to work off stress. It can even be sex.

Prioritizing self care and being intentional about maintaining a healthy balance in all circumstances will increase your ability to manage stress and sustain a sense of calm through these heightened challenges.

 

Dr. Yael Varnado is the founder and CEO of At Your Health Service–an executive concierge lifestyle and wellness medical practice with worldwide member-clients. She also founded Get Checked 4 Life, Inc. (www.getchecked4life.org), a 501c(3) organization that provides at-risk and underserved communities across the nation with access to health services, and has appeared on numerous national news outlets from FOX to NBC to raise awareness about service based programs she developed with the United Way in Atlanta, New York City, Washington D.C., and Chicago and a health care maintenance program she created for Salvation Army residents recovering from substance abuse issues in urban Chicago. Dr. Varnado has been honored by the American Medical Association for her commitment to community service and her global service-based health initiatives.