Stress is something we all experience throughout the course of our lives, but sometimes stress can get out of control and be an all-consuming feeling. As April is Stress Awareness Month, we talked to Dr. Bernie Marrero about what exactly stress is, and what we can do to help deal with it.

What does stress do to your brain?

Stress causes a fight or flight reactions which can cause an increase in heart rate, an increase of adrenaline, and heightened senses. After the stressful event is over, there is a release of a chemical called cortisol. Cortisol is a chemical that is responsible for many things throughout the body including calming the body down after a stressful event. The problem comes in when you are too stressed too often and your body creates too much cortisol. This overabundance of cortisol can wear down the brain’s ability to function at full capacity.

What are some manifestations of sleep that people don’t realize but should?

Sleep. Dr. Marrero stresses the significance of sleep and how much stress can change your sleep. He says, “Not being able to sleep at all or well, onset insomnia, racing thoughts before sleep, fitful sleep, and maintenance insomnia earlier than usual” can all be signs that your stress is much worse than you think. Along with that with the lack of good, quality sleep can make it harder to take on the day and feel motivated. All these feelings can, in turn, lead to more stress.

Stress is often referred to as “The Silent Killer” is this true?

It can be, Dr. Marrero says. Stress can affect every aspect of your body from your cardiovascular system to your immune system. This repeated or chronic stress can manifest into certain problems that can affect your overall quality of life. If you let stress get out of control, there is a risk of it becoming that silent killer.

Can anyone ever really run away from their stress?

There is no “running away” from stress, but there is a way to determine the good stress from the bad stress which can help you control it instead of running away. Good stress or Eustress, keeps us motivated, alert, and challenged. Dr. Marrero says,” Without it, we can’t succeed at big challenges, or move towards growing personally.” The opposite is distress, which bad stress. Distress is overwhelming and we view it as something we will never be able to get over. When we have distress, we view ourselves as small and incapable. Recognizing the differences in stress can help you deal with the stress at hand.

What are some ways to cope with chronic stress?

Dr. Marrero says, is to recognize how stress affects you. What are your triggers? When those are revealed, you can start moving towards coping with it. Coping methods include different types of strategies and distractions like slow diaphragmatic breathing and taking a walk around the block.  There are also counterproductive strategies that will only make your stress work like drinking alcohol and doing drugs.

How does Dr. Marrero treat patients with anxiety or chronic stress?

He says he works with the patient to recognize what is reality and what is perception during these moments of high stress. It is important to take the irrational beliefs and try to transform them into a true perception of reality. Stress is an emotional and physical reaction, creating ways to work through that emotional reaction can help cease that physical reaction.

If you feel like you have anxiety that you can’t control, click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Marrero today!