Print Edition - 2015-03-15  |  Free the Words

Take a breath

  • If there is a solution to a problem, there is no room for stress
- RESHA MAKAJU
Take a breath

Mar 14, 2015-

Stress persists in everybody’s life in varying degrees and forms. Undoubtedly, the unhealthy and the poor living miserable lives are under a lot of stress. But, even the well to do is equally stressed about trifling matters, as they ignore the reasons to smile and be pleased. Smaller stressors spontaneously fade away as bigger ones take their place.

Stress is the state of mental tension and worry caused by varied circumstances in our lives that we perceive to be threatening. Though the word, ‘stress’, in itself sounds noxious, it’s not always so. Stress in small doses aids better concentration in our duties, help us stay focused in work and keeps us active. It also helps to accomplish our tasks efficiently, strengthens our energy and will, helps us achieve what we are determined for, and sustain our appetite for ambitions. During exams, it is our stress that boosts our memory and thinking ability.

Positive and negative

Stress is vital for body’s fight and flight response. In response to stress in emergency situations, our body releases epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol, hormones which elevate the blood pressure, pulse rate, blood glucose level, helping us to avoid the physically stressful conditions: such as by running away from a chasing tiger. So, stress is not completely negative. It depends on the way we perceive it and deal with it.

Human body is designed to face challenges in life and respond to it effectively but if we continuously face confrontations and difficult situations in our lives, without any respite, it may lead to a condition known as distress or negative stress. Positive stress can significantly improve our performance and enhance our ability but negative or superfluous stress has deleterious effects upon our physical and mental health. Some of us have the habit of taking unnecessary and exaggerated worries and anticipating disaster; this interferes with our daily routine. Efforts should be made to bring stress under control because if not, it can cause a wide range of physical symptoms including nausea, numbness, muscle pain and breathing difficulties.

Stress is followed by certain physical and psychological changes in our bodies. Physical symptoms may include headache, loss of appetite, weight gain, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, muscle pain and fatigue. Stress can interrupt our sleep pattern and cause insomnia or restlessness.

It may also trigger certain changes to our personality. Prolonged stress causes depression and lack of motivation, and may turn us pessimistic and frustrated.

Stress also aggravates cardiovascular disease such as hypertension and myocardial infarction (heart attack). It directly affects skin (rashes, dermatitis) and might also contribute to degenerative neurological disorders.

Laugh or cry

Stress management techniques can be different to different people, depending on situation and form of stress. However, healthy coping strategies are to be followed while managing stress. Turning to smoking or alcohol might make us feel euphoric and stress-free in the short term, but it might lead to greater complications and other clinical problems. At the same time, criticising ourselves, being aggressive or violent and avoiding the problem are also not the solutions.

Listening to music, playing with a pet, taking a shower, exercising outdoors, praying, enjoying with friends, sleeping are some excellent examples of positive coping responses that are quite effective to reduce stress. Writing about things that are bothering us, letting our feelings out through a deep laugh or cry or sharing our problems with our near and dear ones might also help us relax your mind.

Meditation has become one of the popular methods to cope with stress. Meditation is the practice of focusing our attention on the present to stay calm. Two meditation techniques are most commonly used: concentrative and mindful. Concentrative meditation focuses on a single image, sound, or mantra, or your own breathing. It can be done for 15-20 minutes. Mindful meditation does not focus on a single purpose; rather, we are aware of all thoughts, feelings, sounds, or images that pass through our mind. Guided imagery is another scientifically proven method to cope with stress in which we imagine ourselves in a setting that helps us feel calm and relaxed.

No reason

Progressive muscle relaxation where we progressively relax and tense our muscle and learn the difference between the two is also a good coping technique, proven effective for stress and anxiety. Performing deep breathing and coughing exercise are also helpful. Here, we need to sit comfortably and place a hand on our abdomen. We take a deep breath in and breathe out slowly.

So, whenever we are overwhelmed by obnoxious situations, these techniques will help us to reduce stress. It needs a little practice at first but soon, we will start reaping benefits from them.

Though positive stress has some useful effects upon our body, it is better not to get worried for small and unreasonable matters. If there is a solution to a problem, there is no reason to be stressed. If there is no feasible solution to the problem that is making us anxious, why squander our time?

Makaju is a student of nursing at the Institute of Medicine

Published: 15-03-2015 08:48

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