St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda: American University of Antigua College of Medicine Professor Lynn McKnight is urging residents to seek immediate help for persistent stress and anxiety since they can lead to serious medical problems.
The professor said stress and anxiety can manifest themselves both mentally and physically. “People can be come easily agitated, frustrated and moody… and overly emotional when it isn’t warranted,” she said. “You can look at so many issues that correlate to stress; low energy, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, headaches, heart disease and even asthma.”
The behavioral science professor advises there are several practical steps an individual can take to reduce the stress and anxiety.
She said her immediate advice is to seek help from a professional therapist or counselor or even a trusted friend, teacher or pastor, since talking about stressors can bring immediate relief. However, in the interim she said an individual can feel drastically better “if they just breathe”.
“They need to learn to breathe from the diaphragm. Slow, meditative diaphragmic breathing is one of the immediate ways of helping to relax you,” McKnight noted.
The founder of student group Sherina Langdon said it was important to have the group at the school of medicine since many students handle stress poorly.
“There needs to be more attention to mental health since people take it for granted and they don’t tend to realize how mental health can affect every other organ or aspect of their bodies,” she said.
During the health fair the PsychSig group taught men simple breathing techniques and gave advice on how to handle stress. Prof McKnight is also advising residents that they should know the difference between stress and anxiety which are similar in nature. She advises the main difference is “anxiety stems from internal situations and stress often stems from external situations or our interpretation of them”.
Those who attended the health fair were able to access medical consultations, wellness bay, prostate specific antigen (PSA), electrocardiogram (EKG), diabetic neuropathy, glaucoma and urinalysis amongst others. The men were also able to consult with many other specially invited organizations for HIV/AIDS, Sickle Cell Anemia, Diabetes, Nutrition and Stroke Prevention.
The annual event is organized by a host of AUA faculty members and student volunteers.