July 7, 2008

Tension in Tough Times

By Molly Dewitt, The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.

Jul. 7--Rising gas prices and the cost of food increasing is not only causing financial hardship for some Onslow County residents, but could also lead to physical and psychological problems.

Stress can contribute to or cause depression, anxiety and panic attacks; it can impair the immune system; and more than 75 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for complaints and disorders related to it, according to Dr. Paul Rosch, president of The American Institute of Stress. He said the current economic situation produces "stress for those individuals who must make sudden and sometimes drastic changes in their daily lifestyles" especially when they have not had time to adapt to those changes.

Lt. Col. Daniel Dubbs of Jacksonville said the current economic situation is worrisome but, so far, isn't stressing him out.

"Its frustrating but I don't know if it's stressful," Dubbs said. "It's hard to cut your demand for gas and groceries. I am trying to drive less -- I will not eat less."

That seems to be the attitude of many in the community. People are aware of the problem, but don't have an easy answer.

"It stresses our family out because it makes our family fight about money and it causes undue stress on my spouse," said Alicia Hollon of Jacksonville.

Hollon said she doesn't know how to fix things or relieve the stress.

Because stress can be both physical and psychological, it manifests itself in numerous ways and differently in every person, said John Shalhoub, a licensed professional counselor and owner of Shalhoub Family Counseling Services in Jacksonville.

Rosch agrees and said that because stress manifests itself differently in everyone there is not one definitive way to treat it.

"Just as stress is difficult for each of us, no stress reduction strategy works for everyone," Rosch said. "Jogging, meditation or yoga are great for some but prove dull, boring and stressful when arbitrarily imposed on others. You have to find what works best for you."

Shalhoub recommends increased exercise and socialization to help cope with stress along with enjoying the outdoors. He also said setting priorities and keeping busy can also be effective in reducing stress.

"The best answer to stress and anxiety is keeping your mind busy -- keep your mind constantly occupied," he said.

The Mayo Clinic and Shalhoub both suggest writing as a form of stress relief and as a way to identify stress triggers.

Keeping a stress journal for one week, noting events and situations that cause a negative physical, mental or emotional response can better help someone identify times of the day or certain situations that illicit a stressful reaction, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Reading can also be helpful in reducing and combating stress, Shalhoub said.

"Educate your brain; as you feed your body you need to feed your brain," he said.

Tammy Jones of Richlands has taken on a second job to help cope with rising prices, which has added to her stress.

"The price of gas, the price of food, the price of everything is up," Jones said.

Jones said she finds reading helpful in reducing stress.

"I come (to Books A Million) to get books because it's my de-stressor... I call it my brain break," Jones said.

Faith can also be helpful in stressful situations, although it doesn't have to be centered on any particular religion or deity, Shalhoub said.

"Prayer can be self-talk," he said. "Prayer is a positive self-language that motivates you to stay the course."

Keeping a positive attitude can also be helpful; at least it is for Charles Lesko of Emerald Isle.

"I try to keep a positive outlook that this is a short term situation and that in the long haul we'll get out of this and we'll be alright," Lesko said. "We've been though tough challenges in years past, we'll get through this."

Contact Jacksonville/Onslow government reporter Molly DeWitt at 910-219-8457, or [email protected] Visit www.jdnews.com to comment.


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