Stress is a technique used by your mind to enable the body to react and deal with a possible threat to your well-being. Evolutionarily, this mechanism was set in place for us to evade predators (fight or flight) or to be intuitively aware of situations that might arise such as drought or famine, so we may take care of the situation before it’s too late; by migrating the tribe or hunting/gathering more feverishly.
In today’s scenario, we may not have to be afraid of being chased by a mountain lion or running out of Big Macs any time soon, but factors that could trigger stress still exist. Stress could be work or school related, relationships, societal pressures, ardent self analysis that come with the burden of expectations or the fear of failure. Stress affects everyone differently, but more commonly it usually causes anxiety, fear, mood swings, difficulty or inability in making decisions, lack of concentration, repetitive thoughts, preoccupation with the past or the future and self doubt.
Physical effects include muscle soreness (especially in the back or neck), lack of energy, fatigue, irregular sleep pattern, excessive palpitations and indigestion. Recurrent stressfulness could result in serious mental and psychological consequences, diminished immune health and physical well being. These could affect emotional health or lead to lowered self esteem and put a toll on relationships and academic/career performance. Unfortunately, the behavioral impact of the stress makes it harder to cope with life and it becomes a self nullifying process. Like a quicksand, the more we try to battle the cause of distress, the deeper it draws you in. The best approach for dealing with it is in recognizing the buildup of stress and taking steps toward remediating from it.
Here are some steps that you can take in dealing with the inevitable –
- Acknowledging the cause of stress – Most of the time, the cause of the stressful situation is caused by our own perturbances. The chagrin of deadlines could have been due to procrastination, or relationship issues could have stemmed from your own lack of communication. Better time management, not overcommiting ourselves to unrealistic expectations and simply just talking it out with loved ones could help bring down the pressure.
- Take a Break – If work is getting too demanding or you can’t seem to find a job no matter how hard you try, everything you attempt just brings you despair, just take a break. Put whatever it is that is causing you stress away. Don’t even think about it until you have calmed yourself down and taken yourself to a happy place. Mulling over something or trying to make something work with a negative attitude will only bring negative consequences. Once you have achieved a positive mindset, solutions will find themselves.
- Practice Yoga or meditation: Hard research has shown that Yoga elevates mental and physical well being, improves breathing and mindset and promotes better health and well being.
Meditation helps channel thoughts, and stabilizes a worried mind giving one the ability to focus better. Even ten minutes of focused breathing daily could be sufficient to alleviate stress, and synergize one’s mind, spirit and energy.
- Get out of the vicious circle of Self-Pity – It is natural to get upset when things are not going your way. Even worse, when it becomes repetitive. We tend to blame situations, others, our past, etc. Simply accepting the blame, analyzing where Your fault lies and working toward them. Improving on yourself or breaking an old habit could be a positive outcome of what you thought was an unfortunate situation.
- Music – Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us (Martin Luther King). Listen to happy, positive and uplifting music to induce brain wave patterns geared toward happiness and smile as the stress melts away, unnoticed. (Would like to add a link to a song perhaps? Any suggestions?)
- Love – There is no greater joy than love. Being loved gives you strength. Loving unconditionally gives you courage. Spreading love and good spirits are the key to happiness. Try this simple experiment. – Do 5 good deeds a week. The feeling of goodness and the joy in helping others through their difficulties puts into perspective the trivialities of our own. Also focusing on helping others takes our mind away from our own woes.
- Creative Expressionism – In the daily rut of things, work school, family, relationships our emotions that want to vent out get stifled. Not having an outlet to vent out our emotions only turns them against us. Feelings of resentment, lack of self satisfaction and simple frustration can sometimes lead to unhappiness, confusion and feelings of lack of ability of dealing with things.
Drawing, painting, playing a musical instrument or simply just screaming it out or venting to a friend are some ways that you could express yourself. Doing something artistic also gives you a sense of accomplishment.
- Gratitude Journal – A simple tool for generating happiness which most therapists, psychologists and life coaches recommend. Start a journal and write in it everyday one thing that you are grateful for. For ex. “I am grateful for my family, and all the love and support I have from them”, “I am glad for my health being intact”, etc.
- Induce Happiness: Laugh. Do something silly and child-like, like blowing bubbles. Go outdoors and get adventurous like hiking, kayaking, camping, etc. help you get your mind out of the burdensome rut and give you a fresh perspective on life.
- Develop a Sense of Humor – “Laugh and the World Laughs with you. Cry and you Cry alone”, goes the old adage. Laughter is infectious, and having a light hearted demeanor toward any situation no matter how serious, reduces the severity of the stress. The best thing is, reacting to something funny is so spontaneous and involuntary, it immediately melts the strain away. Read a funny blog, watch some stand up, or tell a joke. Making people laugh is such a pure unabated joy, that no matter how dark or sullen your sorrows are, they will have to make room for joy.