Stress is basically a reaction of the body to a sudden change or threat. Stress hormones are released by adrenal glands, that exists on top of our kidneys. It is a kind of “Flight or fight” response your body gives depending on whether it has to face or fight back the threat or a sudden change. While there are numerous disadvantages and negative effects of having stress, there are some positive things too. So, depending on the changes the stress brings, it can be classified as negative and positive stress. Negative stress is called as Distress and Positive stress is called as Eustress.
Positive stress boosts enthusiasm, concentration, will power and keeps the person active. But negative stress is so disturbing that it effects the individual in all ways possible like physically, emotionally, socially etc. which can interfere even with the daily activities, to make the life miserable. Stress when gets chronic and left untreated, can result in severe health conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, heart problems, high blood pressure, headaches, skin allergies etc. It affects the cardiovascular system, neuroendocrine system, total immune system, central nervous system, neuro-skeletal system and could take a severe emotional toll.
Understand your Stress
Listen to what your emotions say, like from which thought did it spring and which kind of anticipation is increasing it. To maintain the stress levels at a normal rate, understand your stress better. Here are a few important steps through which you can handle stress.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a kind of talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. CBT is the process developed based on the concept that our thoughts , feeling, body and behaviour are all interlinked and tend to influence each other all the time. So the way we feel depends on the way we think and behave.
CBT journal is a thought journal which help you realize how your negative thoughts are influencing your emotions and behaviour. The unhelpful thoughts and thought patterns are also observed using this journal.
How to use the journal
- Describe the anxiety provoking situation in which negative thoughts arose.
- Make a note of the place you were and the things you were doing.
- Note the anxiety levels from 0 to 10 that the situation evoked.
- List the negative thoughts occurred in that anger provoking situation.
- Mention the evidence that supports the negative thought
- Now, think of an alternative positive thought to replace with the previous negative thought
- Again rate your emotions in the scale of 0 to 10 after all this.
This is an evidence based approach using which the intensity of unpleasant feelings and emotions and the frequency at which these thoughts occur, comes down.
Know What’s What
Every thought need not be significant. When stressed, most of the thoughts that occur are unhelpful thoughts. A majority of these unhelpful thoughts are based on our past experiences and not facts. Though they seem to be believable, an opinion is entirely different from a fact. Hence we need to know and focus on the facts, rather than considering all the opinions, in order to make helpful changes. It’s better to write down the opinion we have and the proofs or the facts against them and again think if they really match. When we re-think, it is often found that there is certainly some mismatch between the thoughts we have and the facts we wrote there. Now, you know what to do! Brainy people never go out of the way, when they come to know the truth.
People having anxiety disorders often tend to anticipate or imagine the worst case scenarios of any possible event, which could mostly never happen. Learning to disassociate with the negative thoughts, especially catastrophizing is very important.
Pen it down
- Write the catastrophe which you are expecting to happen
- Try to avoid using “what if ..” and put the thought clearly
- Rate from 0 to 10, on how sure the catastrophe is likely to occur
- Try to think how many times did your prophecy come true in the past.
- Make a logical guess on the possibility of occurrence of this catastrophe.
Think of the worst case scenario and the best case scenario if the catastrophe come true. Now, just think if it really happens, how worst it could be and how to cope with it. Think about all the resources you have at your disposal to help to cope like your friends and family, skills and abilities you have, to make things work for you. On the contrary, think how best it could also happen. How good things will be in the that case. This exercise can be a very good resource for anyone who tends to worry excessively about a potentially negative event. So, these are the main type of negative thoughts that lead to negative stress and are hence discussed how to deal with them. Knowing the way solves half of the problem.
Make it Simple
Let’s have a look at the common things one should always keep in mind to avoid stress.
Enjoy a Break
Stressors are always there around. They can neither be completely eliminated nor you can escape from them. You have to deal with them, sometime or the other. So, just take a break for at least half-an-hour when you are over stressed. Do something for yourself which should be your stress-buster, like cooking, gardening, yoga, dance etc. anything which eases your mind. This enables you to think better and deal the stress better.
Stretch a leg
Everyone knows how healthy it is to exercise. But even a walk, run, swim or dance for 15-20 mins in the midst of stressful situations, gives a lot of relaxation for several hours.
Having friends is joy, while having best friends is a blessing. Speak to the person who is not related with the problem and discuss the things for any suggestion or support. Having someone who really cares is a gift of god.
Smile.. It costs nothing
Our facial expressions and emotions influence our brain activity. Smiling and laughing though stressed out, helps your nerves ease and relieve the tension.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness help body to relax. Even brief amounts of them show good results by releasing emotions that cause physical stress to the body.
Improve your Problem-solving skills
Problem solving skills are gaining high importance these days as they really work out best to analyze the facts and have a solution based approach.
Problem Solving Therapy
Follow the procedure in a genuine way.
- Specify your problem as clearly as you can.
- List the goals you want to achieve out of this
- List the possible ways to come out of this problem.
- If unable to get, think like it’s your friend having a problem, but not you.
- After having a list of solutions, write the pros and cons for each, if implemented.
By now, you will definitely have an idea what’s the best one and the next one. Try working on it by dividing into micro steps and perform one by one.
Once done, evaluate the outcome. Analyze what went wrong and what not. Get an idea on how you would deal with the similar problem if you encounter it again.
In the modern day life, one might count it as a luxury to have time for yourself. But, it is a necessity. Relaxation is an inevitable part of stress management where it not only revitalizes but also improves your ability to cope with stress better. After a busy stressful day, some people find it relaxing to be a couch potato watching television. Instead a relaxation routine would be much helpful if incorporated in life. This could include deep breathing, mindfulness, yoga, meditation etc. Some people relaxation in painting, gardening, reading a novel etc. which they love to do.
Take a deep breath
Deep breathing techniques involve focusing on breathing patterns. This exercise is particularly helpful for people experiencing symptoms of anxiety such as dizziness, rapid heart rate, palpitations etc. The way of breathing is really important in this technique. People with anxiety disorders, breath deeply with their chest, instead of stomach, which could lead to hyperventilation. Deep breathing techniques help you learn ideal breathing using your lungs to their full capacity.
It is often observed that people with anxiety disorders are tensed in a few parts of the body. They are so used to this, that they can’t even realize. PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) helps in such cases. It starts by trying to relax systematically by relaxing different muscle group in the body.
Visualization or guided imagery is imagining a serene and calm place where you feel like relaxing, when you are very stressed. Imagining this, calms down your mind. This is also helpful in our daily lives when we face a stressful condition. These are all the ways to manage stress. Such techniques can be used relating to the trouble we face. Practicing problem solving skills also let’s you not to enter into the stressful conditions.