The biggest and the most common health concern in the present-day situation is that of stress. From young children to old age people irrespective of what field they are in are struggling with some stress in their lives. Sometimes due to the profession, sometimes due to family, sometimes due to health, etc. The reasons might be countless but the impact of stress is huge on mental as well as physical being of a person. Stress has been established as a cause of anger, depression, headaches, heart attacks, accidents, even cancer, suicide, and other health problems. Therefore, it becomes highly important to deal with the stress to lead a healthier life.
Stress reaction can be triggered due to a wide range of reasons and similarly the management of stress can be done through a wide range of ways. Stress management is precisely a person’s physiological response to effectively come up with a coping mechanism to deal with the psychological stress.
Stress has multiple facets which manifest in self-induced ways or an external stimulus occurring in life. Stressful situations are a part of life as are the joyous ones. So while one cannot necessarily eliminate stress completely from one’s lives, we certainly can figure out how to positively react to the stress and take charge of the situation to deal with the inducing stress. For this to happen, first and foremost one needs to analyze and identify the stressors in one’s life and learn to manage them. If we can gradually master the art of channeling our reactions positively, we can alleviate stress to a good extent and improve our health and in turn our lives.
Sometimes a little amount of stress can even be beneficial as it might trigger a person to perform better and get through certain stressful situations more productively. However, the stress in the extremity can impact the person’s health, affect the immune, cardiovascular and neuroendocrine and central nervous systems, and even take a severe emotional toll. If left untreated over a prolonged period then the chronic stress can lead to anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, depression, heart disease, etc.
Stress causes and stress management, both are very individual processes and hence whatever might be the way, everyone must know what impacts them and generates stress as well as what helps them in dealing with the induced stress. Psychologists and psychiatrists have often highlighted how stress dealing and stress handling comes down to a person’s psyche and how he/she manages his/her thoughts.
Some of the ways many people use to manage stress include:
- Pursuing hobbies in which you are interested like gardening, playing music, creating art, dancing, etc.
- Exercising in whatever form one enjoys, has also been known to be a great stress reliever.
- Once you have identified the stressor in your life, take a break from it or the situations and surroundings that are more likely to trigger it.
- Know your warning signs. These could be in the form of emotions like anxiety, fear, anger, lack of confidence, etc. or cognitive symptoms like difficulty in concentrating confusions. You might also notice physical symptoms like dry mouth, tremor, racing heartbeat, sweatiness, dizziness, headache or behavioral symptoms as nail-biting, pacing, drinking or eating too much or too little, poor sleep, losing temper, etc.
- It all comes down to mindfulness about oneself and the affecting surroundings. It is essential to regularly cultivate and practice this art. Aim for 20-45 minutes of mindfulness practice.
- Distance yourself from self-induced or external expectations.
- Breathe deeply through your nose and exhale from your mouth till you feel more relaxed. Combine these long breaths with certain light relaxation exercises.
- Divert your mind to calmer, positive thoughts. Watch something that helps you laugh and feel better. Listening to music, reading a book, surfing the internet, meditation, sports, or taking a hot bath also reduce stress for many people.
- Lifestyle changes involved social as well as routine habits. Regular exercising, eating a balanced diet adequately, sleeping enough, scheduling your tasks, limiting the coffee/alcohol intake also helps.
- Work on your social behavior and social set up especially in stressful times by stepping out, meeting your friends or making a phone call.
- Be watchful of your thoughts, try and make them more realistic, reframe your problems, and maintain a sense of humor. Do not overthink or over-analyze a situation.
These might be small steps but are easier to incorporate. If followed, these steps of being more present, reaching out, meditating and being closer to your mind and body, certainly tone down the stress levels as they eventually, work on your psyche and thereby improve your overall way of living.
By Dr. Neeraj Raj B, Consultant Psychiatrist, Aster RV Hospital