Updated: Sep 18, 2022
"Stress" - How does it sound? It somewhat gives an unpleasant vibe. Right? Well, it is surely a matter of concern, so let us go through its
The word 'stress' comes from the Latin words 'strictus' and 'stringere', which means to tighten. Inherently, it carries a sense of restriction that reflects an individual's psychosomatic state under physical pressure or mental demands. It represents those challenges that excite us and also those that overwhelm us. That's how stress is a demand made upon the body's capacities. If demand is below capacity, we feel under-stimulated, and if the demand is above capacity, we feel overstretched. It is upon us to balance the demand as well as our capacities. So, let us study it in detail.
Stress can be caused by various reasons, be it physical, mental, emotional, social, financial, environmental, or intellectual. It may be due to our inability to meet high expectations and professional demands. Poor communication, conflicts in interpersonal relationships, improper time management, health issues, lack of emotional intimacy with loved ones, insufficient personal space, poor financial status, noise, heat, and air pollution may also affect our mental state of balance, driving our mind towards stress.
These causes take us to different consequences that can affect our lives and those around us. The first and foremost is the decreased levels of concentration, speed, and attention leading to a reduction in memory span. It may also heighten tension and poor performance in tasks that affect our sleep patterns. Improper sleep can further lead to aggravated stress problems. Thereby, feeling of incompetence, lack of enthusiasm, lower self-esteem, bottled-up anger, addiction to bad habits, and bad interpersonal relationships, can worsen the case. All of these are interconnected. Hence it would disrupt our existing system and may lead to personality problems. Physically too stress-influenced conditions can cause diabetes, hair loss, heart diseases, hyperthyroidism, obesity, sexual dysfunction, tooth and gum disease, ulcers, etc.
What particularly stress do to us is that it disrupts our environment, making it uncomfortable for others. Hence, often forces us to live a life of isolation.
Thus, now we know how the inner world contains our reactions, feelings, sensations, and memories of things in the outer world. To have a better outer view, we need to reflect on our inner us. As stress can affect us in various aspects, we must try different strategies to manage these stress levels.
At first, we have to address our physical health issues due to their direct impact on our everyday life. To do this, we must exercise, perform meditation, eat healthily, take medication for existing physical conditions, try out laughter therapy, massage therapy, etc. We and our bodies stay together from birth till death. That's why what we do to our body is only our responsibility which will surely be back to us. The more we care for our body, the more our body will care for us. What we eat, what we do to be fit, how we deal with stress, and how much rest we give to our body will decide how our body will respond. Remember, our body is the only address where we currently live. Our body is our asset/liability, which no one else can share. We must take care of it, not only to keep our body healthy but also to make our and others’ environment healthy.
To manage stress cognitively, we must make ourselves mentally stronger. Better mental health helps in leading a better quality of life. Here are a few tips on how we can make ourselves mentally stronger :
1. One tough task a day :
Doing one tough thing every day will incorporate the experience into our model of 'normality' and hence, expands our 'comfort zone.'
2. Replace bad habits with good ones :
Habits! How many of us have heard this - "You cannot change your future, but you can change your habits, and surely your habits will change your future". Adopting good habits helps us maximize our potential to improve our quality of mind and life.
3. Identify challenges and create goals :
A goal makes us feel purposeful and directs us to a destination point. If we don't have one goal at this moment, it's ok. Eventually, we'll figure it out, but at least we must face our challenges and consider them as an opportunity for growth. It's more about perception.
4. Identify strengths and weaknesses to work on them :
SWOT analysis helps in understanding ourselves and is useful for self-improvement. There are various websites (16personalities.com, sapa-project.org) that help in analyzing our personality and traits to work on them.
Further points are directly related to coping with stress-:
5. Self-reflection :
Reflecting on the self opens our minds to re-program. Unless we learn to face our own shadows, we will continue to see them in others. The outer view is a reflection of our inner us.
6. Gratitude journal :
Journaling helps us focus on our thoughts and also makes us recognize triggers. Triggers give us a realization of our fears. It makes us know ourselves better. The gratitude journal always makes us feel more grateful every day.
7. Self-talk :
Someone's judgment about us is not a statement of our self-worth, but what we think and whisper to ourselves holds more power. Let's be kind to ourselves.
8. Pen down new thoughts/ ideas :
Creativity comes from our imagination. We first imagine, and then we create. Practising this can help us in becoming better problem-solvers. If not 10 ideas, at least one will do.
9. Scheduling the day :
A lot of problems can be solved just by proper time management. If we do not spend enough time planning, we will fail to manage our demands and capacities. We can plan our schedule before sleeping at night or early in the morning. Planning requires prioritizing our activities according to their importance and urgency.
10. Eliminate triggers
Maintaining a list of situations and thoughts which make us anxious, force our breathing rate to go high and decrease our concentration, can surely help us to eliminate those triggers or at least reduce them to cope with our stress.
11. Create a healthy environment :
A healthy environment promotes a healthy life. If we're in a toxic environment, then perform activities that release happy chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin.
'The Reward Chemical' is released when we listen to upbeat music, complete a small task, and get a good night's sleep, which makes us feel good.
The 'Mood stabilizer' chemical is released when we go out in the sunshine, walk, meditate, and practice self-care. This one puts life in perspective.
The pain killer chemical that reduces stress is released when we exercise, do deep breathing, eat dark chocolate, watch some comedy show/ laugh and play.
The bonding hormone/ the love hormone is released when we pet an animal, hug, cook for a loved one, hold hands, and give compliments.
So, to get beatitude in our lives, we need to put effort into ourselves. For which we only need to be kind to ourselves and to our situations. Don't be judgemental. Analyze objectively what is wrong and find solutions for that. Having analyzed and been able to find the right action, do it. Acting with objectivity is true action. Be proactive!
You can also work on having a holistic approach to reduce unwanted stress. If it's still not under control, consult a professional. Treatment for stress focuses on changing the situation, developing stress coping skills, implementing relaxation techniques, and treating symptoms or conditions that may have been caused by chronic stress. Psychotherapy, medication, and complementary and alternative medicine would help in treating stress.
Remember, it's totally fine to be stressed in situations, but to such an extent that it disturbs our mindset and daily lifestyle is what needs to be controlled and managed. As 'Bill Phillips' said, "Stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle.”
So, be realistic and enjoy life as freely as air.
Editing Credits: Nipankshi Sharma