Recently, I addressed some young students about ‘Stress and how to cope with it’. The feedback from the students was encouraging and gave me an idea that since ‘Stress‘ is an essential part of our day-to-day lives and affects all of us, why not offer a blog post to create greater awareness. So, here is this humble offering… for you all …to banish stress from your lives.
Stress is how we react or respond to the demands placed on us by a given situation. It arises when there is worry or anxiety about our capacity to cope with the situation or occurs when we are incapable of handling the given situation. Well, no situation, by itself, is either good or bad. In fact, a situation may be good for one and bad for another depending on various factors like one’s past experience, perception of the experience, personality, ability, etc. Now, depending on how we perceive the situation, we may have either good or bad stress. Good stress or ‘eustress‘, as it is often called, is positive and motivates us to move into action to get things accomplished. For most students, getting into a college could be an example of eustress. On the other hand, bad stress or ‘distress‘ impacts us negatively and needs to be dealt with or managed. Threat of ragging / personal injury is an example of distress. Dr. Rick Levy, a clinical psychologist, says,
“Stress arises any time there is an unacceptable disparity between our expectation and our experience. When this happens fear rises, and the stress response is activated. ‘Fear of Failure’ is the most common cause of stress in our lives.”
Some Common Stressors
Sources of stress, or stressors, could be either ‘internal’ like thoughts, values, beliefs and attitudes or ‘external’ such as extremes of temperature, unhealthy eating habits, pollution, sleep problems or some change, loss and tragedy. Common stressors faced by a student joining an institution could be:
- Being away from home for the first time.
- Being on one’s own in a new environment with new responsibilities.
- Exposure to new people, ideas and temptations.
- Greater academic demands like classes, assignments, examinations, etc.
- Late study hours.
- Making decisions at a higher level than one is used to.
- Changes in one’s social life.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress and health are linked together. Stress adversely affects our immune system. Research suggests that 50 to 70% of all physical illness are due to stress. Physical stress symptoms include dry mouth, cold hands and feet, increased sweating, rapid breathing, faster heart rate, tense muscles, feelings of nausea, desire to urinate, upset stomach, etc. Behavioral stress symptoms include yawning, talking too fast or too loud, fiddling, twitching, nail-biting, grinding teeth, drumming fingers, pacing, etc. In addition, one tends to become emotional, irritable, defensive, irrational, aggressive, hostile, critical and over-reacting. Stress, if not handled properly, may lead to worry, anxiety, nervousness, irritability, headaches, backaches, frequent colds, physical weakness, insomnia, change in appetite, sexual disorders, hyper-acidity and other stomach-related disorders, thereby affecting our health adversely. With greater awareness of ourselves, we can identify the stressor and then take appropriate action to overcome its effect.
Ways to Cope with Stress
Physical as well behavioral symptoms of stress can also help one know that (s)he is stressed. To overcome stress, you should sit comfortably, analyse the problem causing the stress (i.e., the stressor), manage your feelings, relax yourself and then identify a possible solution to the problem. Some other ways to cope with stress, based on my experience, are:
- Start your day with prayer, yoga and pranayama; these help you to be calm and composed, focused and peaceful within.
- Develop a habit of sitting straight with your spine erect and breathing slowly and deeply; it helps to soothe your mind.
- Keep yourself fit by doing physical exercises daily; it increases blood flow to the brain and releases endorphins, which help improve your mood. Walking at around 5 kmph for 12 to 15 km per week or 30 minutes at least five times a week is good for your health.
- Eat nourishing food at proper times. Examine your diet; add vegetables, fruits, and nuts and reduce intake of salt, refined sugar, and caffeine in your diet.
- Make an increased effort to organize your life; identify your priorities and base your decisions accordingly; anticipate events, plan in advance and prepare well. This creates a feeling of being in control and keeps the stress at bay.
- Get to know your class mates and teachers. Get involved with the campus activities. Attend your classes regularly and keep up with your course work so that you do not feel stressed at the time of examination.
- Maintain communication with your family. Share your feelings with some one you trust, your family member, good friend or college counselor, in case you are stressed.
- Surround yourself with right people and right things as they bring joy and happiness; Smile often and Laugh a lot.
- Hug someone. Hold hands or stroke a pet.
- Reduce expectations from others as expectations, when not met, affect the state of happiness and joy.
- Learn to accept situations as they are. Develop an attitude of giving your best in any situation.
- Learn to manage your anger as it affects your health.
- Take charge of your life. Have inspiring Goals. Get involved and work for ‘Shreya’ or excellence.
- Do what makes you feel great, avoid what makes you feel lousy and learn to say ‘No’ and respond to stressful situations with right understanding and awareness. Find balance in all that you do.
Avoid use of alcohol, drugs, medicines and tobacco to look for an easy answer to stress management.
- Relax by doing what you love to do e.g., listening to music, spending time and sharing with friends and people you love, indulging in hobbies, meditation, etc.
- Take Rest by sleeping for at least seven hours, set time to sleep and wake up.
- Reward yourself when ever you do something good.
- Develop a positive attitude of equanimity, neither too happy nor too sad. Look for good in every situation. Be optimistic.
- Be in the present with yourself, with your thoughts. Live every moment to the fullest, give it your very best and make it count; manage your time well.
- Maintain a journal of your daily activities, thoughts and feelings.
- Be disciplined. Live a value-based life. In the ultimate analysis, what matters is not your position, bank balance, palatial house, big car but the lives that you touched and helped transform.