Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Stressful world is the area in which we live, we like it or not!! There are many situations or people who make us feel that we are in danger. When we sense that we are in danger we tend to react by giving a response to it. Such situation which evokes response in us is called Stress. The response will be in two forms. We will opt out for any one.
- We either go ahead and fight against it or
- We step back and flight
Stress is primarily a physical response. It is the body’s way of responding to any kind of demand, danger or threat. The danger may be a real one or an imagined one. When stressed, the body thinks that it is under attack. The body then switches on to one or the other of ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ mode while releasing many hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, nor-epinephrine and cortisol. These hormones and chemicals help the body to respond to the stress and prepare the body for physical action.
Stress is actually needed for all of us. It helps us active and alive in the hunt of life. Stress to survive and do something for survival has made our journey through the evolution possible and has made us better, civilized and intelligent species. Stress helps us thrive, live, fight, earn, face dangers, and survive. This is called positive stress. When this stress goes beyond its limitations and when we are not able to cope up with it, it starts hunting us down. It starts damaging us physically and mentally and will be causing many psycho-somatic health disorders and diseases.
Related Reading – Choosing Fight Or Flight Responses To Combat Stress
In this article I would focus on those two important questions which each one of us should ask to selves when in stress.
Two Important Questions you should ask to yourself when you are trying to combat STRESS!!
Whenever we are in a state of stress, we need to ask two important questions to ourselves. The first set of questions will be of course –
- Should I fight?
- Should I flight?
We can take only one option. And that would be our response to stress. Many times when we either fight or flight according to our choice, instincts and as a spontaneous reaction we feel that we have done the best either in beating the fear and danger related to stress or that we have escaped from it by skillfully stepping back. But that doesn’t end the story there. The stress is not a visitor which knocks your door once. It is a part of every moment of your life. The same situation may be read as stressful situation by few people whereas the others may not see it easily.
Example – If you have gone to the exam with deficit preparation and have visualized a tough paper, even an easy paper appears tough because the fear is already there in your mind and you see easy things going tough. Your answers to those questions too will be abrupt. The nervousness envelopes you and you would have spent lot of time in tension and in stress. But after the exam your cool brain will tell that you knew answers for many of those questions.
Read related: Effect of Stress, Anxiety on Stomach And Intestines: Remedies
Another student coming to take the same exam, having come well equipped and prepared will feel even a tough paper easy because the confidence of tackling any sort of question was always there.
Therefore a given situation may be stressful for some and non-stressful for others.
Even after stressful event or events there would be anticipation and fear of similar impending events in future, deep inside the sub-consciousness. This will keep us anticipating for yet-to-come stressful events. This often happens in those people who carry stress for long periods and in those who can’t forget or forgive things. This will create an environment of insecurity around them. A constant fear and anticipation of impending stress will cause sufficient damage to the body and mind, cause chemical and hormonal surge and cause many stress-borne diseases in a long run. These people will become victims of stress forever.
To beat this demon of stress, to master it, to overcome it, to see the same stressful events in a new perspective and to keep the nerves and chemicals of the body, the mind and senses under control, you just need to take a small pause after a stressful event, sit calm and ask yourself two valuable questions.
- Did I have a control over that situation?
- What do I do when I encounter the same situation next time?
Not only that, we should also try to find answer for those questions. Depending on a positive or negative answer we get from within us and on how we try to find answer for these questions, we would gradually learn to avoid or combat stressful situations in future, if not completely but to an extent.
Now let us see how these questions help us to control our stress levels and patterns.
1. Did I have a control over that situation?
When you have passed through a stressful event, you can ask yourself this first question. Did I have a control over that situation? Was it in my hand? Could I have done something different to avoid that situation?
The answer will be either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Before asking this question to yourself, keep your mind detached from egoism and keep it transparent. You need to be humble and sincere, true to self, in answering this question. If needed use a paper and pen to write your answer.
The Answer is ‘No’ – If your answer is No, then you need to calm down. Anyhow the situation was not under your control and you couldn’t have done much to change, influence or manipulate the situation or scenario. So, when you couldn’t do much why you should worry about that situation and build up stress in your body and mind? Let go of it and relax.
The Answer is ‘Yes’ – If your answer is Yes, then you should re-strategize yourself. You could have handled the situation in a better way and either prevented, avoided or combated the stress from not going beyond control. In this case you need to put yourself a second question.
2. What do I do when I encounter the same situation next time?
I will do one of the below said –
I will try to either fight that situation or flight, depending on the nature and strength of the stressor or stressful situation or person. I will think cool because I would have the situation in my hand and I would be in a position to take an appropriate decision and choice so as to how to respond to that stress without damaging myself or others, to play safe and prevent the adverse effects of stress. In that way, I would secure my body and mind from becoming victims of stress.
If I have a pre-view or visualization of impending stress or similar such situation repeatedly in near future, I will make better blueprints and plans either to avoid or fight them in a reasonable way. Still I will try to avoid collateral damage. I will equip myself against such situations and be reasonably cool and easy on self.
I will try to remove the stressors from my vicinity or try to ignore them
I will try to visualize the same situation in a different perspective and plan to handle it or them in different ways. I will try to find different remedies.
Read related: 24 Stress Management Tips: Pranayama, Meditation, Lifestyle Changes
How this works?
Let us see this with some examples to make understanding easy.
It was raining hard. I missed the pick-up vehicle. I took a cab and in a hurry to reach the office. There was severe traffic jam and the vehicles were moving ‘turtle speed’. It was getting late. I started getting intolerant. I started shouting at the cab driver, forced him to take short route and drive hard. He said that all the routes are blocked. I argued with him. He too argued. I reached the office late. I missed an important meeting and joined late. It was an embarrassment. The stress carried over. I couldn’t work properly that day. Most work left out as residue and carried over to next day. I couldn’t focus on my lunch. My stomach got upset and my gastritis worsened. I missed my noon diabetes medicine and hypertension pills. I came home with the same mood. My kids were making fuss. My wife and mother were watching television with loud sound on. I got angry and shouted at everyone. Everyone got upset. We did not speak to anyone all night. I ate half stomach and so did others. I slept and couldn’t sleep properly. The next day I got severe stomach upset and headache. I had to take leave from office.
Did I have a control over that situation?
Yes and No also. I could have managed the day better. It was just an off-beat day. I could have started early knowing that it was a rainy day. I shouldn’t have missed my pick-up, it was my mistake. I couldn’t have anyhow controlled the traffic or rain, no one could. All other events following that were the result of a bad start for the day. I messed up everything. I could have handled things in a better way. I could have been softer with the cab driver, could have managed the meeting on phone and assigned someone else to take the lead, I could have still managed things in spite of reaching the office late, the meeting, the lunch, the medicines, everything. I could have settled down and handled the things with easy mind, come back home and spent some fun and happy moments with my family which would have eased the stress. My sleep would have been better and I would go to the office next day, a fresh person.
What do I do when I encounter the same situation next time?
I will try to manage things in a better way. I will avoid all those mistakes that I have made. Those mistakes, if I could have avoided them, could have made my day easy, I could avoid lot of stress and embarrassment; I would be easy and happy and keep my surroundings cool, I wouldn’t carry the stress to everyone around me. I am not free from such situations. I am sure, like others, I too will be a victim of such situations time and again throughout my life. I will try to control every situation which is within my limitations. And when things go beyond reach I shall resort to either fight or flight depending on my strategic and situational planning and wisdom.
As explained in the above mentioned example, if you question yourself with these 2 golden questions, you would learn to beat your stress and tackle your stressful situations in a better way, even if you cannot totally avoid them. This would prove good for your physical and mental health.
There are many other situations which we cannot control. They are beyond our capacity, reasoning or control. In that case we need not blast our heads and worry about those situations. We need to ignore and move ahead.
Let us see such examples and try to understand if we can do much about these situations or people.
- Your messy boss always plays on your nerves. He shouts at you, targets you often and you do not like him. Can you control your boss or his mindset? No! He too is undergoing a lot of stress; he is working for some other boss. He may have some health issues, stress disorders, family issues and lot more problems. You don’t rule his life and control his problems. He is bound to react. You can neither rebel nor sympathize him, nor should do. You don’t control the way he leads his life. You are just a surface on which he is trying to vent his emotions and frustrations. If you are influenced by that, you will carry those frustrations and try to vent them on someone else. In the business you would have ruined your mind health and lot more relations.
So what to do?
Nothing, you cannot do anything. You just need to allow him to be himself and you should be yourself. That’s it.
Just think, is he that important in your life? Does he have any business to sit in your mind and senses and rule your life? Does he have a right to make you and keep you stressed all time? Is he authorized to disturb you and your life? Have you authorized him to ruin your peace of mind and sleep?
For all these questions there is only one answer – No!!
Then why do you carry him in your mind? Why have you given such big space for him in your life? Why is he messing with your life and the life of your beloved ones?
Just flush him and his thoughts from your mind and determine never to rent him. You will feel much relaxed.
You need to encounter him daily at office. Just ignore his mannerisms and mood tantrums. You are not a dart board at which he hits at will. If he wishes let him!! But never feel the dart hitting you. Just tuck them. I mean just ignore everything. When he sees that you are keeping differential or his tantrums are not influencing you, he will gradually give way.
Just feel that you are important, just you, no one else!!
- You have got tough question paper. Many questions are beyond your imagination. Your preparation was good. You do not control the mindset of the question paper setter.
- Any argument initiated by your wife or colleague or neighbor or relative or a friend, you do not control them or their mindsets or the chemicals and hormones spiking in them. If you too push yourself into the arguments, you will be a part of the stress drama. Later you need to ask yourself the first question (as mentioned above). If you just hang on for few moments and behave like a like pole of a magnet, everything will get repelled and you would not have allowed those situations to influence you or take over your mind. You will not carry your office to home and home to office and you would be a happy person.
- While expecting the results of your examination you need to remember that you don’t control the mindset of the valuators. If you have done your exams good just keep peace. Some students are disappointed when they get less than expected marks in spite of doing well. You don’t control this situation. You can only prepare good and write your exams in a good way, this is what you can control. Few students go to depression or even to the level of committing suicide. Is it worth it when you don’t control those situations? Parents play a key role in counseling their kids in these instances.
- You see an accident on the road. You see hundreds of people dying after being shot by terrorists or as victims of floods or earthquakes. These are the situations which you do not control. If you feel bad for those people, pray and forget it is natural. If those events carry on in your mind for months and are not erased, they build up stress in you. If you see a person dying on the road after meeting with an accident and you decide not to go in that road nor ride a two wheeler or a four wheeler ever on the road, it doesn’t make any sense!! A particular event doesn’t happen to everyone and doesn’t repeat with the same person. If a bad event occurring to you or anyone else carries in the form of fear in your mind for long time, it cause stress related disorders.
There are lot more examples which you can imagine or work out in a similar way. I have just mentioned a few for the sake of easy understanding. All the examples from 1-5 in this instance are those conditions, situations or events which we don’t control. But often we have seen those events haunting and hunting us down in the form of stress. This is because we have allowed them to take over us. We have surrendered ourselves to these situations and events and allowed them to get better of us.
We need to understand the situations and events which we do not control and let them go!! This is the best way to beat or ward off the stress!!
Just Before Finishing
Life is always stressful. Amidst that if we create stressful events or imagine stress in non-stressful situations and carry them in our mind and senses in the form of fear, we become permanent targets and victims of stress. In this article I have tried to show stress under two umbrellas, the stressful events and situations which are in our control and those which are not! I have also tried to analyze those situations with the help of suitable and understandable examples and provide possible remedies to the same in the form of reasonable understanding of stress and stress related events.
The best remedy for stressful events is – ignore those situations which are not under your control and make good strategies to tackle the situations and events which could cause stress and which you could easily control!!
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu)