By REUBEN DUDLEY
STRESS is part of everyday life, especially in today’s “pressure cooker” lifestyle.
We try to juggle and balance all our life’s responsibilities while still maintaining our sanity. The problem is that we can’t escape stressful situations. So, as we go about our daily lives, we only add on more stress, worry and anxiety than we realise.
Soon it begins to eat away at our physical and mental health, productivity, freedom, relationships and, ultimately our passion to live. Stress occurs when you perceive that demands placed on you — such as day-to-day commitments, work, study or relationships — exceed your ability to cope. Some stress can be beneficial at times, producing the drive to help people get through situations like work deadlines, exams or even to win at something.
However, according to the American Psychological Association, an extreme amount of stress can have health consequences, affecting the immune, cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and central nervous systems, and take a severe emotional toll. Chronic stress can result in serious health conditions, including obesity, insomnia, depression and heart disease. But just because we encounter stressful challenges does not mean that we must succumb to stress as a way of life.
Everyone is different and so are their ways of managing stress. You may not be able to get rid of stress but you can look for ways to reduce it.
Here are some healthy techniques to help reduce stress:
BREAK time: Take a break from the stressor. It may be difficult to get away from a big project, a tense work, family or relationship situation or ever increasing bills. But when you take a short break to let yourself do something else that is healthy, it can help you gain a new perspective and feel less overwhelmed. It’s important not to avoid your stress (those bills still have to be paid) but even just 20 minutes to take care of yourself by doing some thing different is helpful.
EXERCISE: It benefits your mind as well as your body. A 20-minute walk, jog or swim in the midst of a stressful situation can have an immediate effect that can last for several hours.
PURSUE a hobby: Something creative and healthy such as gardening, music, art, reading, writing, can be great stress relievers.
BALANCED meal: Have a nutritious meal and don’t skip your meals.
SLEEP: Get adequate sleep. Make it a practice, even if you don’t feel tired.
AVOID smoking, drinking alcohol and stimulants: These may give you a momentary “high” but the stress returns, usually more forcefully, and you keep needing more of those substances, even becoming addicted.
SMILE and laugh: According to psychologists, our brains are interconnected with our emotions and facial expressions. When people are stressed, they often hold a lot of the stress on their face. Laughing or smiling can help relieve some of that tension and improve the situation.
SOCIAL support: Call a friend, send an email, talk to someone about what you are trying to cope with. When you share your concerns or feelings with another person, it helps relieve stress. But make sure that the person who you talk to is someone you trust and understands you.
MEDITATE: Meditation and mindful prayer, even for a short while, helps the mind and body relax and focus, see new perspectives, and develop compassion and forgiveness, all of which help release emotions that may have been causing the stress.
HELP someone else: It can be extremely helpful and energising to refocus your energy on another person.
Maybe it’s comforting or encouraging someone else to cope with their problem, a phone call or simply a smile. Volunteer work or work that helps others can be a great stress reliever.
We all struggle with stress in different ways, some of the time or most of the time. But many of us just don’t take it as seriously as we should. Stress can be our greatest enemy, and our body and mind’s worst nightmare if we don’t stand up to it and consciously address it.
Source: The New Straits Times