RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an everlasting impact not only on our communities but on ourselves.

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Dr. Carlos Ramirez with South Texas Health System told ValleyCentral the human body is well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on the body.

Dr. Ramirez said Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity have been linked to stress.

Insomnia is also a side effect Dr. Ramirez has seen in most of his patients who claim to experience stress.

Chronic stress has been seen to release adrenaline and cortisol hormones which increase the heart rate and blood circulation causing a person to remain awake even though their internal clock says otherwise.

Dr. Ramirez added there are ways to cope with stress. “We can give medications to reduce anxiety, looking for help within the family and see the support they can have, looking at counselors and looking at some other things they can do.”

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South Texas Health System reports dealing with a high number of cases linked to stress, but Dr. Ramirez said stress isn’t a diagnosis, so it can’t be measured.

The STHS Behavioral Department has seen a lot of patients in the last year as licensed adolescent counselor, Robert Ruiz said, “Everybody who comes here is under stress. If you’re in crisis by nature, you’re under a lot of stress. I would say that, and I’ve actually looked this up… Texas ranks ninth as far as the most stressed-out state.”

According to WalletHub, Texas does rank the ninth most stressed-out state according to those who were surveyed on economic, family-related, health, and work-related issues.

Ruiz added the most common stress triggers he has seen in the RGV stem from economic, health, and border crisis issues.

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When a person is experiencing chronic stress, Ruiz said it has a “shrinking effect” on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. He said it can kill brain cells.

Ruiz agrees with Dr. Ramirez in finding someone to talk through stress whether that be with a licensed counselor or with friends and family, but also suggested exercising regularly as that can release the muscle tension associated with stress.

If you’re experiencing stress and looking for help, call STHS Behavioral at (956) 388-1300.