-By Team WisdomWinds with inputs from Gouri Godase
“I am so stressed out,” is a catchphrase you say to yourself almost every single day of your life. As you try to cope with the mounting pressure of work, family, expectations, financial burden, physical wellbeing, you are overwhelmed with a feeling of handling too much.
Although, anything that threatens or challenges you is termed as stress, there are certain stresses which are good for you too. Such stresses, in fact, are essential to generate the right response at crucial situations – like avoiding accidents by breaking at the right time.
However, in most cases, stresses undermine your physical and mental health, often causing irreparable damages. And, still you keep ignoring this potential time bomb, and keep on with your daily charade, accompanied by your ‘unnecessary friend.’ Stop doing that, and put some stress on stress!
Stress is the means through which your body responds to various demands. Incidentally, stress is not just bad or negative, but it could also be good or positive. Your body reacts to stress by releasing chemicals into the blood, which in turn generates more energy and strength. Such a release of energy and strength could be good if the stress is due to physical danger. However, if the stress is the result of emotional upheaval, and there isn’t any outlet to release the extra strength and energy, it could lead to problems.
How does stress impact you?
Stress could impact both your physical and mental wellbeing. If you are under stress, you may become sick and tired, and not able to concentrate on anything properly. It may also lead to mental breakdowns as well. Further, if you suffer from long-term or extreme stress, your body will also face the repercussions, and wear down rapidly.
However, there is an interesting side to stress as well. Experts believe small amounts of stress could actually be good. If you do not feel any stress or excitement, you may get bored easily or will not strive to reach up to your potential. Thus, understanding your stress level is imperative.
In fact, if you are able to recognise when you are stressed out and manage your stress level, you will be able to improve the quality of your life in a better manner. For instance, short-term stresses, such as stress before a board meeting, interview or any competition, may provide you with extra energy that you may require to give your best. However, long-term stress, such as constantly worrying about your family, career and finances, may drain your energy and impact your ability to perform a task.
Recognising short-term stress
Short-term stress could be the instant reaction to something that is going on in your immediate environment. Such a stress usually occur in quick bursts, and impact your body in several ways – excessive sweating, faster breath and heartbeat, cold hands and feet, muscles tightening, dry mouth, muscle spasms, headaches, fatigues etc.
Although, the burst of energy may help you in dealing with situations, especially physical, where you may need to react in a quick manner, it may have adverse effect on your mind if no reason or outlet for the stress is being provided. Such effects may include taking bad decisions, not able to enjoy life, being frustrated or anxious, inability to concentrate or work, feeling of rejection, and unwillingness to discuss your issues with others.
Recognising long-term stress
Stress lasting for a longer period of time or long-term stress could have greater impact on your mind and body. Such stress could result into impacting your appetite (you may start eating less or more), changing your sleep pattern (you may either sleep too much or not sleep at all), constantly feeling tired, worn out or falling ill (cold, flu, headaches, asthma, skin problems etc.), inducing nervous behaviour (fiddling, twitching, nail biting, talking a lot and other repetitive behaviour), as well as impacting your sex life.
If you are under long-term stress you will not be able to think clearly, deal with issues or even handle regular activities such as folding clothes, bathing or going somewhere. Your mental well-being will suffer the hardest, as you will start feeling anxious and worry contently, which may lead to panic attacks and anxiety disorder. You will feel out of control, confused, overwhelmed, while getting depressed, angry and frustrated will become a new norm. It may eventually lead to alcohol or drug abuse, and severely impact your professional and personal lives. And worse still, suicidal thoughts may lead you to take some extreme steps.
Yes, I’m stressed out. Help me!
So, once you recognise you are stressed out, what should you do? Although, there are various long-term strategies you may adopt–starting from making changes in your lifestyle to avoiding stressful situations to accepting your environment–the first and foremost thing that you should do is to simply STOP and BREATHE DEEPLY. Now, that doesn’t sound difficult, does it? Try it out, at least once a day.
Here’s a laundry list of things to do when you are stressed out.
Identify what is causing the stress. Finding out the trigger point of your stress will help you in managing it in a better manner. When you recognise what is making you stressed out, you will be able to control your reactions towards it and find a balanced approach towards life.
Be silent. Get away from every day din and meditate at a peaceful corner at least for a few minutes every day. Meditation is one of the best methods to counteract stress.
Eat nourishing food. Understand your nutritional requirements as per your mind-body type or dosha. When you are stressed out, food becomes a major catalyst in triggering different doshas. Thus, it is imperative to make conscious food choices, keeping in mind your unique dosha. In Ayurveda, three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—are defined, which are derived from the five elements.
Exercise regularly. If you are unable to maintain a regular exercise routine, start with quick breaks and taking small walks around the office or home. Keep moving your body, which will help in providing you with more energy for managing stress.
Sleep well. Stay healthy by getting those essential snoozes. A well rested mind and body helps in approaching any stressful situation in a calm manner, while a sleep deprived person will only add more stress to his life. Also, instead of sleeping for long hours, focus on getting quality sleep, that will make you feel restful and rejuvenated.
Take a break. Head out, go for an annual vacation or weekend trip or simply visit your ancestral village. Get away from the daily grind. Switch-off from your worries, day-today routine and work. Cut yourself off from regular habits–checking mails, social media updates, taking official calls beyond office hours. Relax yourself in its truest essence.
Smile and be kind. Smile more, stress less, that’s the mantra. Even research indicates that smiling helps in reducing stress. Make conscious efforts to smile at life’s small events or create a happy folder and check it whenever you feel stressed out. Also, showing gratitude helps in increasing happiness, improving health and coping up with stress. But,don’t forget to be kind to yourself as well.
Stress is an integral part of human existence. You feel stressed out not just in challenging situations such as death, divorces, financial issues, but also in joyous occasions such as wedding, child birth or even small celebrations. These events are part of your life and cannot be avoided. However, learning to manage and avoid stress could help you in leading a healthy life Start a stress-free life today!
We asked some of our readers what stresses them out and took those queries to our expert, Gouri Godase, a physiotherapist. If you are stressed out too in your day-to-day life, you may take a cue from these.
I am a stay-at-home mom of two-year old twins, dependent on maids, while my husband has a touring job. I find myself on the edge almost every waking hour of my life. What should I do?
You need to relax yourself, and sometimes get away from the situation, even if it means getting into another room or even the bathroom for that matter! Close the door and be quite for some time. Do some deep breathing exercises, release the tension from your body. Even if it means for a quick few minutes, give yourself some breaks, you will feel less stressed-out by the end of the day.
I have an aggressive boss, who keeps shouting at us on the floor. At times the stress-level is so high that it impacts my work too. How should I avoid such a situation?
While you cannot control someone else’s behaviour, you could certainly make some changes in your reactions to the circumstances. Instead of feeling anxious, remove yourself from the situation. Wash your face with cool water and take a stroll down the corridor of your office. You may head to the ground floor, remove your shoes and walk on the grass. Breathe in the fresh air and calm your senses. Just be with yourself and do not indulge in gossips or backbiting, as it would only increase your stress level.
I have some important exams next week and despite trying hard, I am not able to concentrate on my studies. What is the solution?
Maybe, you are putting too much time at your desk. You need to stop putting so much pressure on yourself. Taking small breaks would help you improve your concentration. Doing quick exercises like rolling your head and shoulders, or rubbing your hands and placing them over your eyes, or just closing your eyes to relax may help you in gathering your thoughts. If you are feeling nervous about your exams, do some breathing exercises. Talking a stroll or listening to music may also help.
About the expert: Gouri Godase is a physiotherapist, practitioning in Cessnock, New South Wales, Australia. She has more than 11 years of experience in working with reputed hospitals such as the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai and other hospitals in Australia. She specialises in sports and spinal physiotherapy.