Stress, in general, is a reaction of your body to any changes that requires an adjustment, especially if it’s perceived as a threat. Each one of us experience stress at different times due to environmental, physical or emotional triggers in life. Our body reacts to these triggers and gives responses, which can be good or bad for the health and wellbeing of a person.
Stress can arise out of positive events, like the birth of a child, promotion in office or movement to a new neighborhood. In such situation, a person feels energetic and motivated to meet the challenge. It also helps a person in responding to a dangerous situation. However, there are other types of stress that have harmful effects on your health due to our body’s physical, mental and emotional response. In such cases, stress can affect your relationships, make you feel inadequate and reduce your overall wellbeing.
Causes of stress
A person who is unable to control the demands of a situation experiences stress. Everyday situations in life that gives stress include:
- Demands at school, college or work
- Health problems
- Issues like inequalities
- Relationship issues
Specific events in life can cause stress, which can be arising out of positive or negative life situations. Such events bring major changes in life, for example:
- Relationship changes
- Death of a close one – family member or friend
- Job loss or income loss
Your personal view about a situation or event will determine whether it’s a stress or not. Some people may find a specific event as stressful, while others may not feel so. A problem may not seem stressful if you feel that you are in control. The same problem may be overwhelming to another person and be a cause of stress.
Symptoms of stress
Stress has a holistic effect on you. The symptoms of stress can be seen in your response to an event and how it affects your body, behaviors and feelings.
Signs of stress:
Physical changes (changes in your body)
- Tensed muscles
- Rapid breathing and increased heart rate
- Sleeping problems
- Social withdrawal
- Lowered self-confidence
- Negative attitude
- Concentration and decision-making problems
- Feeling restless
- Smoking & drinking more than usual
- Avoiding stressful situations
Emotional changes (changes in feelings)
- Feeling worried or confused all the time
- Feeling angry or irritable all the time
- Feeling overwhelmed or helpless all the time
- Feeling like you can’t cope
Coping with stress
There are several ways of coping with stress, based on situations. Different people use different coping strategies. However, most people use the following ways to cope with the stressors in their life.
Do what can be done
In most situations you can do something to manage stress. Be strong and resist the urge to flee from the problem as it will make you more stressful in the long run.
Express your emotions
Feeling sad, angry or fearful is common while you are coping with stress. Express your feelings to someone or try to write it down. But, it’s also important to manage your emotions by not pushing away people with behaviors like shouting or swearing.
Seek social support
It’s good to seek social support when you are stressed and feeling overwhelmed by a situation or event. It’s a good idea to get emotional support from someone who cares about you. Reach out to close ones (family, friends, a co-worker) or a health professional. Ask for their opinion on how to handle the situation or to take a decision. Accept help for childcare or daily chores and responsibilities, if offered.
Focus on the positives
Every situation has a positive as well as a negative aspect. It may be difficult but try and look for positivity out of the situation. This will motivate you to make the situation better. Define the problem and set your goal to reach a possible solution. Choose the solution that works best for you and move towards it. Choose a different strategy if the original plan didn’t work.
Taking care of yourself is a good strategy to cope with problems, especially when you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Self-care is about doing little things every day to make yourself feel good. Some of the self-care activities that you can do, include:
- Maintain your energy level by eating and drinking healthy
- Exercise everyday
- Avoid using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism
- Practice meditation, yoga or other such activities for relaxation
- Maintain balance between work and play
- Spend some time on a hobby
- Get enough sleep at night
Maintain your relationships
Stress can affect your relationship with family, friends and co-workers. See to it that you do not push them away while trying to cope with your stress. Its best to be assertive about your needs and avoid mean-spirited mannerism to hurt them. Wait for the right time to accept responsibility or to apologize.
People who express spirituality usually experience lower levels of stress. Communities that follow spiritual practices, like prayer & meditation, are helpful in offering social support. Spending time at your place of worship or meeting people who share your beliefs is a good way to reduce stress. It also helps to talk about your situation to a leader of your spiritual community.
In case, you cannot change a situation then it’s best to accept it. Managing distress is the most difficult coping mechanism for stress. Events like death, long-term illness or loss of a job are difficult to accept. But denial of the problem will prolong the suffering and hamper your ability to make things better. Also avoid indulging in wistful thinking.
Distraction helps to deal with short-term stress. The thought of visiting a dentist can be stressful for some people that can be reduced by reading a book. However, if you use a distraction like watching TV to deal with a stress like meeting work deadline then it can be harmful. Use of drugs, alcohol or over-eating as a coping mechanism can create problems in the long term.
Helpful distractions for taking your mind off problems, include:
- Taking long walks or a drive
- Exercise or hobbies
- Housework or gardening
- Watching movies
- Playing video games
- Meeting friends or family
- Playing with pets
- Taking a nap
We often forget to take care of ourselves in the busy schedule of our life, which in the long run results in stress induced health conditions. Taking care of yourself is a need, not a luxury.