By Ms Usha Shinde.
Stress is like Oxygen!
Many readers, who are already stressed, will frown at the title and may raise questions like “How It can be?” I again say that stress is must for us…. . ! All over the world stress is treated like a threat, disease and feared about. I do not want to create any controversy, but would like to show the positive side of the stress over negative. Because stress is a very powerful force which has to be handled with respect.
What is a stress actually? Can we define it?
Stress is difficult for scientists to define, because it is highly subjective phenomenon that differs for each of us. Things which are stressful for us may be pleasurable for others. For example, fast driving may create stress on you whereas driver may be enjoying it. We may hold our breaths while watching a circus but the artist actually enjoys to do it. Everybody responds to stress differently. Let us see the different definitions of stress.
“Stress in individuals is defined as any interference that disturbs a person’s healthy mental and physical well being. ”
“Stress is a psychological and physiological reaction to a situation that is perceived as a difficult to cope with and involves a strong emotional arousal. It is an anticipatory in nature and best treated in pre emptive manner. ”
“ Stress may be viewed as body’s response to any real or imagined event perceived as requiring some adaptive response. ”
“Stress is a cerebral reaction of a particular individual to a stimulus event.”
“Stress is body’s response to change that requires a physical, mental and emotional adjustment or response. ”
There are two main types of stress —-Positive and Negative stress. Again we can divide them in Acute and Chronic stress.
Positive stress increases the total concentration of all mental and physical abilities towards the achievements.
Negative stress decreases the total concentration of all mental and physical abilities towards simple tasks even day to day life.
Positive stress is a must for human beings. Without it one will not get up and go to meet a friend or go to work! Positive stress motivates you to perform and achieve something. For example, if you are performing a role in a drama or performing a dance on a stage and if it is your favorite role or dance and you have prepared a lot for it and just eager to perform……this is a good stress.
You are looking forward to perform and you are confident that you will be well received; you enjoy the stress with make –up on in the wing! A confident surgeon enters in the operation theater to do the challenging case and performs a very difficult surgery while listening to music is called positive stress. His skill, experience motivates him and creates positive stress. If you have prepared very well for the examination, have checked your knowledge by various ways and are very confident that you are going to snatch the top rank …. you are actually waiting for the question paper … your brain is fully organized to express, your hand is eager to write, that is a positive stress. Players and sports person who are waiting to perform without any other thoughts and distraction in Olympics are under positive stress. It creates a winning mentality!
Read related: Stress Symptoms and Natural Measures for Stress Relief
Characteristics of stress are very funny and fluid! Stress is illusive. It is a perception. Stress is a general term. Sometimes its is more fearful than the actual happening or an incidence. Good stress is associated with confidence, performance, joy and fulfillment. Bad stress is always associated with “fight” or “flight. ”
Let us analyze the causes of stress –
- Increasing urbanization. Society at large and daily life has changed almost beyond recognition in the past 50 years. In recent decades there has been rapid urbanization. Stress arises from crowded cities, cramped living conditions, proximity of millions of other people, high level of crime, noise and air pollution. Higher rents, high cost of living, long hours of travelling to and fro from workplace cause stress.
- Aging population. Life expectancy is increased. People live longer than before. This is due to better diet and modern medical facilities over last 200 years. In urban areas the birth rate is also fallen. It has created conflict between career plans and long term care for aging relatives. The cost of living along with healthcare cost continues to spiral. If there are very old people at home and the couple is compelled to earn, there is a stress in the family.
- Changing gender roles. The role of a woman has changed dramatically over the past 100 years, especially in urban societies. Women are in almost in all areas of work force and are judged by the same stresses as men. However women suffer more stress than men because of conflict between outside work and home management. Today, no field is untouched by women, but at the same time they have to manage pregnancies, deliveries and children too.
- Materialism and success calculations. In recent years along with consumerism, materialism is also increased. Aspirations, ambitions, better standard of living etc. has forced people to earn more for social status and for family’s happiness. Better jobs, promotions, increments are the criteria today.
- Isolation. Due to pressure of modern life, people are isolated from their own self. They do not have time or energy for their own feelings and emotions, true wishes, aspirations, likings and requirements of own soul. There is isolation from friends and society too. Most important is there is isolation from “higher Self”. The fast routine and drudgery has made many to lose a daily dialogue with higher force or supreme force. Due to this the harmony between body, mind and soul is affected. It is not just “I am lonely”, but the “I “is lonely.
Now let us see the sub types of stress:
– Acute stress – Acute stress is dealt more efficiently than expected. If life threatening situations occurs, body and mind’s mechanism swings into action to face the situation. In such situations, there is no time for thinking, planning or worrying. We are designed to cope with acute stress much better than with chronic stress. Series of mechanisms help us to face the crisis.
Read related: Student Stress Management – How To Cope With Stress Of Studies
-Chronic stress. This takes toll on the total personality. It is like a hanging sword. Any life threatening disease or terminal disease to the family member can cause chronic stress. Untimely, unexpected death of a family member, severe financial loss, loss of reputation is responsible for chronic stress.
Individual stress. This is due to individual reasons like loss of job, unemployment, heart break, unhappy marriage, court cases. Stress can break families.
- Social stress. Sudden loss of job, severe financial loss, diseases like HIV+ cause social stress. In many villages HIV+ person and his families are boycotted. Even inter cast and inter religious marriages cause social stress.
- Environmental stress. Natural calamities like earthquake, floods, famines, war, and nuclear radiation leakage are the examples of environmental stress.
- Organizational / Industrial stress. Strikes, layoffs, mergers and acquisitions, retrenchment, hierarchy, harassment including sexual harassment etc.
Effects on the health are vast. It is proved that under stress the entire endocrinal system goes out of gear. Hormones like “Adrenalin” and “Cortisol” are released in blood which creates stress on vascular system and on heart. Under stress blood pressure fluctuates. Many psychosomatic diseases like diabetes, depression, personality disorder, suicidal thoughts and tendencies surface. Loss of appetite, poor digestion, fatigue, less immunity and frequent infections also affect.
Cognitive symptoms like memory loss, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, anxious and racing thoughts, seeing only negativity are observed by psychologists and psychiatrists. If prolonged, it may lead to swinging moods to extremes, inability to relax, panic attacks etc. Then the dependency on alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and medication also starts.
Childhood stress cannot be neglected. Today’s children are more prone to stress due to the total change in life pattern. If this stress is not dealt properly, it can lead to personality disorder and violent nature. Imposing our aspirations, dreams, and ambitions on children causes harm than help.
Tips to handle stress
How to handle the stress?
Unless you are able to manage yourself, you cannot handle other person’s stress. It begins from you! But suffering from stress is not a weakness.
Requirements to handle the stress-
A) Find the root cause. If you are able to identify the root cause, half of the problem is solved. The cause can be removed or dealt firmly. For ex. If the distance to office is too far, one can think to shift near to workplace and save the energy, time and money.
B) Sharing. Being expressive helps. Sharing with a non judgmental, non critical and unbiased person reduces the stress.
C) Family support. Family is an unique and most informal institution which cannot be replaced by anything. A warm, understanding family can provide psychological safe
- D) Friends. They are an asset who can lend a listening ear and support.
- E) Society. Society at large and even the neighborhood can support a stressed person by being available and helping when required.
F)Counseling /Medical support. Now a days there is much awareness about mental health compared to last century. Even schools are appointing full time counselors to handle and prevent the stress. A counselor should know when medical intervention is required.
- G) Intimate relationship. Every human being yearns to have a understanding partner who shares the joys and sorrows. Partner is a strongest support system.
- H) Perusing any kind of art, sports, games can divert the attention and create a better perception and bring hopeful feelings towards the situation and life.
- I) Pay attention to yourself and listen to your body. In the rat race, we get into mechanical rut. Relaxation methods, control over moods, tension and anger management, meditation, Yoga can enrich the personal life. Music therapy, Aroma therapy, Reflexology is very useful. Becoming “slow” in life is necessary.
- J) Treat stress as a teacher. What is a message from stressful person or situation? This introspection can change attitude, opinion and behavior for betterment.
- K) Humor. It is a stress buster. It can make things easier, lighter and brighter. It eases the tension. Watching comic movies, serials, cracking jokes reduces the intensity of stress.
- L) Social work. The most important but underestimated tool. Those who serve less privileged or needy, their problems become milder. With less fortunate, you ystart knowing your blessings. A grateful heart reduces the stress and attracts more help from universe! That is a law of attraction!
As Terri Gullemetes says “Stress is a choice. We all generate it but if you don’t dispose it properly, it will pile up and take over your life. ”
In short, stress can be managed, coped with and dealt if you decide for it! My recommendation to readers is to read a book written by Swamy Sukhbodhanada “O Mind, Relax Please!” and then S—T—R—E—T—C—H !
Ultimately stress is our reaction and perception. Anything that enhances our perception towards hope allows our hearts to heal and life becomes more joyful. Thus we can take stress on our stride and make it useful like oxygen!