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Stress and Underlying Medical Conditions in These Trying Times

Stress is a normal part of life that affects individuals in many ways. When not managed

effectively, stress can be pervasive and severely affect physical and mental health. Stress

affects the body by making it more difficult for our bodies to fight infection, it can disrupt sleep

and decrease pain tolerance. The physical symptoms of unmanaged stress can be

uncomfortable and distracting under normal circumstances, and unbearable if left unchecked.

Mentally, the tension and pressure of stress can add to feelings of helplessness and

hopelessness, which can trigger a host of debilitating mental health issues that make peace of

mind and joy impossible.

The global pandemic presents new challenges that provoke anxiety and even despair. We each

have to decide what our health risk is and determine what we are willing to do to manage it. The

uncertainty we are faced with tests the coping abilities of the most relaxed and optimistic of

individuals, so an increased stress level is normal and expected. Most people are able to adjust,

though, and are able to adapt to the increased health and isolation demands that the pandemic

brings without additional support.

Chronic stress due to medical conditions can be debilitating due to the continuous demands that

are placed on the individual in physical, emotional, and social ways. Medical conditions such as

diabetes, heart problems and obesity require care and attention that can be difficult and

stressful to manage. Days filled with doctor visits, complicated regimes of multiple medications,

and requiring cumbersome devices to be able to live independently make a normal day

challenging. Recognizing and accepting the added stress of having a medical condition is part

of adjusting to lifestyle changes that are required in order to be as healthy as possible. During a

global pandemic, added stress can tax the resources of the individual and increase anxiety,

irrational fears, hopelessness and helplessness. These symptoms can be debilitating and make

adjusting to changing demands impossible. With underlying medical conditions and the chronic

stress associated with them, the increased stress due to coronavirus can make a bad situation

unbearable, weakening the immune response and the ability to fight off disease and decreasing

the ability to recuperate after an infection.

With this increased vulnerability, added support is crucial because stress can be better

managed and have less debilitating effects with help and the right perspective. Mental health

counseling provides both to struggling individuals who are making their best effort to adjust to

difficult situations. If you are one of these individuals, please do not hesitate to call our office to

schedule an appointment. Teletherapy appointments are available for those who prefer to

remain at home.

By Rebeca Bright, PsyD


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