In the normal state, our mind and body stay relaxed. We breathe calmly and effortlessly in that state and do nothing that causes this state to change adversely. This is the most ideal state people want to be in nowadays. In this state, most people experience a sense of well-being, positivity, and happiness.
Contrast this with a situation were akin to a compressed spring, one is caused to feel pressured (irrespective of reasons) with breath either being irregular or short. Besides causing discomfort, such a state brings about a combination of negative emotions including anger (be it openly explosive or which keeps building up), a perceived sense of being persecuted, irritability, anxiety, negativity, depression, and the inability to concentrate on anything for long. In its advanced stages, stress also disturbs sleep, causes increased hair fall and other problematic bodily issues making it difficult to do or take up normal daily activities
What causes stress?
Stress is the body’s response to an alien situation that has elements of threat and loss tied to it. In humanity’s early days, it came about when our ancestors were attacked by animals, had to fend off enemies, had to do without food or water, etc. These days, despite situations changing, our responses to stressors remain the same, be it short-term stressors or long-term ones.
In the short-term situation, we want the situation to end in our favor which sees our bodies taking all the necessary (and often damaging) precautions. In the long-term situation, it is not really about fending off a situation as much as just a feeling of loss that causes BP to rise and remain that way for years that causes problems.
What happens to the body when it’s under stress?
When faced with a life-or-death situation, how do you our bodies would respond? Obviously, be thinking short-term about survival! We breathe short, our blood pressure goes up (readying for action including breaking into a run!), we break a sweat (courtesy of the body hair due to increased blood pressure), our metabolism slows down and so does digestion (these come later after the stressful situation passes). In short, everything gears us to fight or take flight!
Short-term stress usually is a result of arguments from situations like road-rage, arguments and often loud and acrimonious arguments, a perceived insult, etc. These result in pent-up anger and furies taking over and usually ends just as fast. The problem arises when such responses become standard and causes a rupture or a hemorrhage.
The real damaging stressors are the long-term ones. Remembering childhood slights and manhandling, Past losses and lack of successes, job, and relational losses, office work piling up or unexpected/ unethical/ unjust demands being made, etc. are the more pronounced ones. These either get one’s blood pressure dangerously elevated or lowered which can cause heart diseases
Ways to handle stress
Given that it’s about our responses to situations that cause stress, and given that situations cannot be predicted or changed, we are left with only one option: CHANGE OUR RESPONSE TO TRIGGERS!
For short-term stressors, we ought to see the merit of a situation and formulate our responses likewise. Sometimes even an apparent ‘loss’ could be the best course when compared with the natural outcome of the situation.
It is ideally long-term stressors that need a remedy, given that they are the ones that cause all the damage.
Remedies could include:
- Acknowledging the problem
How do you solve a problem that you do not think exists! If there is a problem, the first step towards its remedy calls for acknowledging its existence besides understanding the whys and hows of the situation.
- Speaking up
Acknowledging the existence of excessive stress in one’s life is half the battle won! The other half calls for speaking about it to confidants including close friends, seniors, acquaintances, and the likes who we know for a fact may give us a patient hearing besides giving us wise counsel. Most of all, now browbeat us besides bringing our case in front of the whole world and cause us embarrassment.
- Asking for help
Long-term stress isn’t a matter which should never be swept under the carpet. If it does not go away despite the best efforts of one’s self, professional help should be taken under every circumstance. Family and friends could sometimes insist not to bring this before the world which could be far from the right strategy to deal with such a life-threatening situation.
Knowing whom to approach could present a problem. For a start, it could best be to approach a known mental health specialist.
- Taking time out to laze
Stress, and more so when it emanates from one’s occupation could be due to unreasonable demands including time. In doing so, one spends progressively lesser time with one’s own hobbies and interests which in themselves are some of the best stress busters.
To the extent possible, one should take time for oneself from one’s preoccupations. And while at it, the activity that causes the stress should be put on hold in the interim. In doing so, the heart and mind get the essential space to relax and rejuvenate for another round of bashing when one comes back.
- Exercise and physical activity including deep breathing exercises
Most folks with stress also have a heart condition as also diabetes. The latter conditions result in short breaths as their very nature they do not let the heartbeat and breathe deep- an essential to beat off the feeling of being stressed. Exercise besides helping breathe better helps build stamina and strength which itself lets one carry on any activity without feeling tired or stressed.
Exercise also helps release endorphins, the chemical that gives us the ‘good’ feeling and is one of the greatest stressbusters. It also helps us keep away from everyday diseases and problems something which adds to the feeling of stress.
- Diet control including the intake of calorie-rich foods that fatten and cause cholesterol build-up in the heart
Foods rich in calories if not countered with exercise and physical activity, helps in weight gain and in most cases, cholesterol build-up in the heart. Stress is also a condition that predisposes one to alcohol consumption which if left uncontrolled, progressively increases in quantity. Adding to fat-build up, it adds to stress and may affect other organs including the liver.
- Being in the right company
Friends and acquaintances, as we mentioned before, are the best company for one feeling stressed. But what if one doesn’t really have close friends? Quite simple. One NEEDS to create the right company by approaching the right set of people including medical practitioners and local clubs and institutions. It may seem awkward initially but with time and patience, can get us in the company of the right folks!
For those among us feeling the ill effects of stress, every day is the right day to practice life with reduced stress. On the occasion of National Stress Awareness Day, take the step right away. Happiness is what you deserve, and happiness is what you shall have