Hans Selye was one of the pioneers of stress research. His observation in 1956 was that “stress is not necessarily something bad – it all depends on how you take it. The stress of exhilarating, creative successful work is beneficial, while that of failure, humiliation or infection is detrimental.” According to Selye that the biochemical impacts of stress would be felt irrespective of whether the circumstances were positive or negative.
Universally accepted definition of stress is that stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person comprehends that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” In a nutshell, it’s what we experience when we assume that we’ve lost control of incidents.
In our life time, we come across stress, some in high levels, and some in low. It is the consequence of enforcing excessive expectations or desire on ourselves, creating images of ourselves and trying to live up to the image that has been created by others. When we try to balance the real image of ourselves and created one, our mind tries to match the created image with the real situation.
Stress can be deteriorated when we give importance to the expectations of others, and being human we always are bothered about what others think of us – even though we tell ourselves that we do not. We try to alter ourselves so that we can be acknowledged by all, regardless of whether or not they care.
Negative notions about our self image also stimulate the stress. We memorize everything that we have faced in our life, but more so the disappointing ones. We revive those negative flashes over and over again in our minds, damaging our self esteem.
The primary lesson would be that incidents of past can not be altered, or wiped away. Only we can take lessons from the past and learn not to repeat it. What we encounter in the past is passed away, and we must proceed in and learn to live for the moment.
Stress management is the call for of the hour. Nevertheless we tried hard to overcome a stress situation; life seems to discover new ways of stressing us out and plaguing us with anxiety attacks. Though suffer a lot from anxiety, mind-body exhaustion or our mistakes but we avoid analyzing the causes or conditions triggered by those. In such worrying moments we frequently forget that stressors, if not avoidable, are quite controllable and treatable.
Stress, either rapid or regular, can provoke precarious body-mind disorders. Instantaneous turmoil including dizzy spells, anxiety attacks, tension, sleeplessness, nervousness and muscle cramps can all result in critical health problems. They can also damage our immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems and lead individuals to habitual addictions, which are inter-connected with stress.
It is tough to enlist the causes of stress. There can be countless stress factors since different individuals react distinctively to the similar stress conditions. Extreme stress situations for an individual may prove to be mild for another, for yet another person the situations might not qualify as stress symptoms at all. Stress is often termed as a twentieth century syndrome. It emerged from man’s chase towards modern advancements and its subsequent intricacies. For example, reasons like a simple flight delay to managing a teenage child at home can put you under stress.
A stress condition can be real or perceived. Yet, our brain reacts the same way to both causes of stress by releasing stress hormones equal to the degree of stress felt. The brain doesn’t differentiate between real and imagined stress. It could occur while watching a horror movie or when one is anxious of some impending danger.
It is said that life acts and you react. Our approach is our reaction to what life gifted to us. An important amount of stress symptoms can be avoided or aroused by the way we relate to stressors. Stress is created by what we think rather than by what has actually happened. For example, handling adopted children, adolescents, academic failures, retirements, tax audits or sudden loss of money needs a stress-free attitude, focused will and awareness to face the hazards of life confidently. Otherwise one tends to sense stressed and responds in anger and frustration. With a better control of attention one can feel that the world is a more amiable place to live in.
“Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. I am convinced that life is 10 per cent what happens to me and 90 per cent how I react to it. And so it is with you…” says Charles Swindoll, author and public speaker.
A right attitude can make a flexible person out of us to combat the stressful situations.
Intensity of stress can be measured. One can use the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale to rate stressful actions. Modifications in blood pressure and galvanic skin response can also be assessed to check stress levels, and changes in stress levels. A digital thermometer can be utilized to evaluate changes in skin temperature, which can contribute to activation of the fight-or-flight reply drawing blood away from the extremities. Stress management has physiological and resistant benefit results.
Every human being has his/her own capacity to cope with crisis and mental fatigue. E.g. a routine job can be stressful for some people while others feel every day challenges are not easy to handle. Keep in mind, when stress acceptance level goes a far from your body’s acceptance level, you will begin to feel stress symptoms, some of which are:
- Daily fatigue
- Sleep disorder
- Muscle tension
- High blood pressure
- Burning / itching eyes
- Loosing temper on transactions with family member, juniors or co-workers
How to reduce, prevent, and cope with stress
It may seem that it is difficult to reduce or prevent the intensity of your regular stress. The bills aren’t going to stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day for all your chores, and your career or family responsibilities will always be demanding. But you have a lot more control than you might think. In fact, the simple realization that you’re in control of your life is the foundation of stress management.
Controlling stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. The ultimate purpose is to achieve a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun – plus the spirit to hold up under pressure and meet challenges face-to-face.
Classify the basis of stress in your life. It is complicated indeed. Your proper sources of stress aren’t always clear, and it’s all too easy to disregard your own stress-like thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Sure, you may know that you’re always anxious about work deadlines. But maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job insists, that causes deadline stress.
To recognize your actual sources of stress, gaze at your habits, attitude, and excuses:
Do you explicate away stress as impermanent (“I just have to finish a million things right now”) even though you can’t keep in mind the last time you took a time out?
Do you describe stress as a fundamental component of your work or domestic life (“Things are always wild around here”) or as an element of your persona (“I suffer from anxiety, that’s all”).
Do you accuse your stress on other people or outside affairs, or view it as totally normal and unremarkable?
Unhealthy ways of coping with stress
These coping strategies may momentarily ease stress, but they bring about more strain in the long run:
- Drinking too much
- Overeating or under eating
- Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
- Using pills or drugs to relax
- Sleeping too much
- Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
- Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)
There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four A’s: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.
Stress management plan
Avoid unnecessary stress
Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. You may be astonished, however, by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.
Learn how to say “no” – It is essential to be aware of your limit and stick to them. Irrespective of your personal or professional life, learn to how to refuse to bear additional responsibilities when you’re about reaching them. Allowing to be burdened by more than your capability is a sure trigger to stress.
Avoid people who stress you out – If somebody constantly causes stress in your life and you are unable to turn the relationship around, don’t spend so much time with that person or end the relationship entirely.
Take control of your environment – If the evening news on TV makes you restless, turn the TV off. If traffic’s got you stressed, opt for a longer but less-traveled road. If you don’t like to go to the market daily, do your grocery shopping online.
Avoid hot-button topics – If you become depressed on religion or politics, avoid them from your conversation list. If you repetitively dispute on the similar subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the issue of discussion.
Pare down your to-do list – Evaluate your schedule, responsibilities, and daily duties. If you’re busy with too many things, differentiate between the “shoulds” and the “musts.” List out the tasks and eliminate the insignificant one from list or put it on the bottom of the list. Make your preferences.
Alter the situation
If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it.
Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is giving trouble, converse your distress in an open discussion and polite way. If you don’t voice your feelings, bitterness will fabricate and the circumstances will likely remain the same.
Be willing to compromise. When you request someone to change his conduct, be willing to do the same. If you both are eager to bend at least slightly, you’ll have a good possibility of finding a happy middle path.
Be more assertive. Don’t be frustrated with your own life. Sort out problems head on, try utmost to foresee and prevent them. If you’ve got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk.
Manage your time better. Poor time management can bring about loads of stress. When the time is running out of your hand and you have crossed your deadline, it’s tough to stay composed and focused. But if you plan in advance and make sure you don’t overstretch yourself, you can modify the amount of stress you’re under.
Adapt to the stressor
If you are failed to alter the stressor, transform yourself. You can adjust to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.
Reframe problems. Try to analysis stressful situations from a more positive viewpoint. Rather than becoming furious about a traffic jam, consider it as a chance to pause and reform, listen to your favorite radio station, or take a rest from driving.
Look at the big picture. You must asses the effect of the stressful situation in your life. Ask yourself how important it will be in the course of your life in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it actually worth getting upset over? If the answer is negative, invest your time and energy elsewhere.
Adjust your standards. Every one wants to be perfect and that irritation creates the stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set rational standards for yourself and others, and be satisfied with the achieved standards.
Focus on the positive. When you can’t avoid stress, take a pause and look back on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your personal positive qualities and gifts. This simple tactic can help you to regain your confidence and enthusiasm.
Accept the things you can’t change
Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t avert or alter stressors like the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In this kind of cases, the best way to deal with stress is to admit things as they are.
Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Several things in life are away from our control— mainly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, concentrate on the things you can manage like the way you wish to react to problems.
Look for the upside. It is said “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Major challenges what you have faced in life; try to look at them as lessons for your personal growth. If you have done a mistake or make wrong choices which bring about stressful situation; learn from your mistakes.
Share your feelings. Talk to a faithful friend or consult with a therapist. Conveying what you’re going through can be very healing, even if there’s nothing you can do to adjust the stressful situation.
Learn to forgive. We live in an imperfect world where people make mistakes and we have to accept it. We try to control our anger and resentments. You should move on in life and have to be more generous and try to forgive people.
Make time for fun and relaxation
Besides a take-charge approach and an optimistic outlook, you can diminish stress in your life by fostering yourself. If you frequently make time for fun and recreation, you’ll be in a better place to control life’s stressors when they unavoidably arrive. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.
Set aside relaxation time. Rest and relaxation in your daily schedule should be incorporated. Don’t allow other interference to intrude. Take a break from all responsibilities and refresh your energies.
Connect with others. Spend time with optimistic people who improve your life. A strong support system will shield you from the depressing effects of stress.
Do something you enjoy every day. Manage time for leisure activities that give you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, working on your bike, gardening or playing with dogs.
Keep your sense of humor. This encourages the capability to laugh at you. Laughing aids your body to fight stress in a number of ways. Not being too serious or in a constant alert mode helps maintain the equability of mind and uphold unambiguous thinking. Laughs keeps away the crisis and stress of daily life.
Laughter lowers blood pressure and reduces hypertension.
It offers good cardiac conditioning specially for those who are not capable to carry out physical exercise.
Decreases stress hormones (studies shows, laughter induces reduction of at least four of neuroendocrine hormones—epinephrine, cortisol, dopac, and growth hormone, connected with stress response).
Laughter purifies the lungs and body tissues of accumulated musty air as it clears more air than it takes in. It is helpful for patients suffering from emphysema and other respiratory ailments.
It enhances muscle flexion, relaxation and fluent blood circulation in body.
Boosts immune function by increasing levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon and disease-destroying antibodies known as B-cells.
Laughter activates the release of endorphins—body’s natural painkillers.
promotes an over all sense of well-being.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle
Exercise regularly. Physical movement has a significant role in decreasing and preventing the impacts of stress. Find out time for at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. Aerobic exercise is very helpful to restrict stress and tension.
Simply relax. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga, aromatherapy and music can assist you to cope with the stresses of life.
Eat a healthy diet. Well-nurtured bodies can handle the stressed situations, so we all have to eat carefully. Start the day right with breakfast, and store your energy up and your mind fresh with balanced, nutritious meals all over the day.
Reduce caffeine and sugar. The momentary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide frequently end in with a crash in mood and energy. By lowering the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll sense more relaxed and you’ll get better sleep.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. You can be relieved temporarily from stress with alcohol or drugs, but can’t offer perpetual solutions. Don’t avoid the problematic issue at hand; handle problems with a clear mind.
Get enough sleep. Sufficient sleep boosts your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will amplify your stress because it may cause you to think illogically.
Healthy ways to relax and recharge
- Go for a walk.
- Spend time in nature.
- Call a good friend. Talk with him/her.
- Sweat out tension with a good workout.
- Write in your journal.
- Take a long bath.
- Light scented candles
- Savor a warm cup of coffee or tea.
- Play with a pet.
- Work in your garden.
- Get a massage.
- Curl up with a good book.
- Listen to music.
- Watch a comed