General Health Thursday June 19, 2014

How To Avoid World Cup Stress: Dr Hilary Jones's Guide

For the average person in the UK, stress is a fact of life and can occur on a daily basis depending on your job, home-life situation or state of health. Every four years, England football fans experience stress at a heightened level due to the almost inevitable emotional roller coaster that comes with challenging for the FIFA World Cup title.

Read on for my take on our relationship with stress: the common triggers, response mechanisms and practical solutions to educate us on how to live healthier and happier during World Cup season.

England World Cup Moment: Ronaldo Wink-Gate, Germany 2006

Once again, England fell victim in a penalty shootout, but this time it wasn't the most stressful moment of the match for England. That moment came in the 62nd minute when Rooney saw red for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho. However, what got the fans boiling was the wink that followed from Cristiano Ronaldo to his bench, after ensuring that he helped to get his former Manchester United teammate down the tunnel for an early bath.

What is stress?

Stress is the body's natural response to threats or pressure, designed to keep us alert and ready to avoid danger. When stress is detected, the brain stimulates the body to release hormones that increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure and provide extra energy. This is knows as the 'fight or flight' response.

Unfortunately, in modern times our bodies react to many types of situations in this way even though we are not in immediate danger. Being under a lot of pressure at work, from a relationship or your financial situation can lead to stress if you feel unable to cope.

People cope with varying levels of stress and will handle it very differently. Some may believe stress motivates them to achieve, whereas others will find it detrimental.

England World Cup Moment: Gazza's Tears, Italy 1990

With so much hope and promise for England after reaching the semi finals through some magical Paul Gascoigne goals, things soon began to turn sour for England as Gascoigne received a yellow card which ruled him out of the final, were they to make it. However, the worst was yet to come, as England fell victim to Germany in a penalty shootout.

How can stress affect your health?

Although not an illness in itself, stress can have a negative impact on your health if it is not addressed and resolved.

Stress can affect how you feel and behave. You may experience anxiety, feel irritable or have difficulty concentrating. Stress often causes physical symptoms too. These include trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, headaches and muscle tension.

Spotting the early signs of stress can help prevent it getting worse and causing more serious problems, such as high blood pressure, heart problems or even diabetes.

A common symptom of stress is erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence. This affects more than one in ten men at some point in their lives. Chronic stress can disrupt hormone levels and reduce your libido. In addition, the body may react to stress by narrowing the arteries. This restricts blood flow, which can again result in erectile dysfunction. The sad fact is that many men choose to suffer in silence, rather than tackling the problem head on.

England World Cup Moment: Kick it Like Beckham, France 1998

Next up, the infamous kick of 98. With England and Argentina tied at 2-2, and the game in the balance, this could have been England's moment to reach the last 4. However, just a minute into the second half, England and Beckham's fate has been decided. After being tackled by Argentina's captain, Beckham kicked out against Diego Simeone and received a red card.

What should have been a game to savour after a sensational Michael Owen wonder goal, many supporters will sadly remember this as one of England's and David Beckham's darkest moments, especially as England went on to lose on penalties.

How can I reduce stress?

It is important to recognise which situations triggers your stress. If you're not sure what the cause is, try keeping a diary recording when you felt stressed and what you were doing or thinking at the time.

Unfortunately it is likely that you will not be able to avoid stress entirely, but there are several things you can do to help you cope. Making time to relax, taking regular exercise and using various techniques to manage your time effectively can all be helpful. Avoid unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol to excess or relying on caffeinated beverages to get though the day. Finally, talking things through with friends and family can help you feel better or even enable you to find solutions for those stressful situations.

England World Cup Moment: Lampard Over the Line, South Africa 2010

With England taking on their old adversary in the last 16, things could not have started any worse for England after going down 2-0 within 32 minutes. However, after getting back in to the game and with the score at 2-1, Frank Lampard's exquisite chip, which should have drawn England level, was controversially disallowed with the referee ruling it hadn't crossed the line. England went on to be beaten 4-1 by the Germans, leaving England fans venting their fury at lack of goal line technology and dreaming about what could have been.

Further advice on managing health problems associated with stress, such as diabetes, erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure can be found on the HealthExpress website.

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