Is ‘STRESS’ stressing you out?

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” – Sydney J. Harris

Undergoing stress in today’s world is pretty much inevitable, but the intensity and frequency of stress are two things you can control. The concept of ‘STRESS’ was invented by the Canadian researcher Hans Selye in 1930. Stress is somewhat non-specific, biological, emotional and behavioural process that occurs when physical or psychological well-being is disrupted or threatened. Though there is no definite definition of stress, it has been defined in three different ways: a stimulus, a response and an interaction.

When individuals have to face any new or changing environment they engage in a process of primary appraisal to perceive the meaning of the event. The event may either be perceived as positive, negative or neutral in terms of its consequences. Negative events are further appraised for their possible harm, threat or challenge. ’Harm’ means the assessment of damage already caused by the event. ‘Threat’ means the assessment of possible future damage that can be caused by the event and ‘Challenge’ means the possibility of overcoming stress and also profiting from the event.

At the same time when primary appraisal of stress is going on secondary appraisal starts. Secondary appraisal is the assessment of one’s coping capabilities and resources whether they will be sufficient to meet all the aspects of stressful event namely harm, threat and challenge. The subjective experience of stress is a balance between primary and secondary appraisal. When harm and threat are high and coping ability is low, stress is severe, but when coping ability is high stress is minimal.

Potential responses to stress include physiological, cognitive, emotional and behavioural response. Physiological responses include increased heart rate, high blood pressure etc. Cognitive responses include distraction, inability to concentrate etc. Emotional responses include fear, anxiety, anger, depression, irritability, helplessness etc, while behavioural responses can be withdrawal, compromise, confrontation, action etc. Anxiety is one of the most damaging emotional reactions; someone who cannot cope with anxiety shows a number of psychosomatic symptoms. Psychosomatic symptoms include bodily symptoms that arise due to psychological factors like tension headaches, acidity, skin rashes, breathing problems, loose motion, vomiting, nausea, lack of sleep etc.

Stress is not always negative; there are certain stressful situations which lead to Eustress. Eustress can be defined as a pleasant or curative stress. All of us undergo stress, some days it is worse than others. Whether your stress is coupled with a specific cause or is the kind that sticks around day in and day out, finding relief is imperative. There is no single relaxation technique that is best for everyone. The right technique is the one that resonates with you, fits your lifestyle and brings your mind back to the state of equilibrium.

A few of the techniques are –

  • Meditation & Exercise – Deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and workouts are the best possible methods to relieve stress as these not only relax your body but also your mind.
  • Identify the cause of your stress – List down your stressors in a descending order and begin working on how to eliminate them.
  • Get adequate sleep – Stress may make it difficult to fall asleep but make sure you get enough sleep to help you relax your body and mind.
  • Don’t make mountains out of molehills – Don’t create extra drama, over think or create problems out of something that doesn’t matter much.
  • Spend maximum time focusing on solutions – When you spend most of your time seeking solutions for your problem you will live a happier life and feel less pessimistic.
  • Stop trying to master everything – Try to be good enough at everything you do and when you are there you are done, because when you measure yourself to a perfect standard then it becomes pretty difficult to keep your self-esteem up all the time.
  • Talk it out – This can be a great relief when you are in a stressful situation. Just letting it all out and talking about it to someone can often help you decrease the level of stress quite a bit.
  • Music therapy – Listening to music can help relieve stress, anxiety and relax. It may also improve mood and help with one’s overall well-being.

Too much stress over a prolonged period of time can have negative consequences. It is important to manage our stress down to appropriate levels so that it can be used for its intended purpose. Stress isn’t always bad, in small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you. But when you’re constantly running under stress your mind and body pay the cost. If you frequently find yourself feeling frazzled, it’s time to get into action and bring your nervous system back into balance.


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