Stress is a normal, universal human experience.Stress reactions may be varied but generally tend to manifest in the following ways:
- The subjective experience of distress(feeling tense, anxious, worried )
- Physical symptoms such as raised BP, tension headache, irritable bowel.etc
- A noticeable (perceptible) decline in one’s productivity or work performance.
- Increase in conflict situations or troubled interpersonal relations.
- Inability to cope with stress may lead to unhealthy lifestyle and habits such as smoking, drinking, compulsive eating, etc
Stress may be a short-term phenomenon when you find yourself under pressure in a particular (and short lived) situation. Short term stress is best handled using mental or physical stress management techniques
Chronic or long-term stress occurs when it builds up over a period. High stress levels sustained over time can lead to and/or complicate an existing physical and mental health condition. This type of long-term stress is best managed by changes in lifestyle, attitude and environment.
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If you frequently find yourself feeling overwhelmed it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back to balance. Stress management incorporates a wide spectrum of techniques and therapies aimed at reducing a person’s level of stress and improve coping skills.
Simple and effective principles in improving your ability to handle stress are:
- Develop an awareness of your stress response and its early signs.
- Try to identify a relaxation skill that you can use and apply in real-life stress situations.
- Introduce a physical exercise regime into your life. Exercise has been linked to emotional wellbeing and improved cognitive functioning. Exercise releases ‘feel-good brain chemicals that lift your mood and energy.
- Regular practice of Yoga induces a heightened relaxation response, lifts the mood, reduces pain, increases the sense of wellbeing.
- A nutritious diet and healthy eating habits help to cope with stress. Avoid processed food, refined carbohydrate-rich and sugary snacks. Include foods rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, high-quality protein, healthy fats like omega -3 fatty acids that have mood-enhancing properties.
- Connect and bond with people in your life. Strong and satisfying relationships makes one feel secure and less pressured by stress
- Good sleep at night and recreational activities are key to a productive and emotionally balanced (stress-free) life.
1.Develop an awareness of your stress reaction How Stress affects you? Try to observe its early signs. Does it trigger vague pains, tight muscles, an upset stomach or you feel fatigued, disturbed sleep, anxiety, nervousness and things out of your control? Be aware of your thoughts, mood and emotion. This helps you to pause; in turn, helps you to recognize your stress symptom and develop a plan for addressing it calmly.
2.Learn how to relax. It may be difficult to relax in an extremely stressful and agitated state, but try to calm down. Take a pause, inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth pushing as much as the air you can. Check your abdomen and chest movements with your one hand- rising with inhalation, continue this rhythmic breathing exercise to combat stress. Learn a relaxation skill and implement it in a stressful situation. Deep breathing is a simple yet powerful relaxation technique. Relaxation techniques such as Yoga, meditation, deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response and bring your nervous system back into balance.
3. Exercise / Fitness activity keeps you going – as it releases ‘endorphins ‘-feel-good brain chemicals that lift your mood and energy. Regular exercise has been linked with superior cognitive functioning and emotional wellbeing. Make a conscious effort to spend less time in front of the screen- television, computer, tab or phone. Find out time for fitness/sports or any rhythmic activity such as walking, cycling, dancing, aerobics. Make sure you do this with great interest and involvement every day.
4.Eat a healthy diet- Avoid skipping meals, maintain regular meal timings and have a balanced diet that includes major food groups like whole grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, etc. The food you eat can improve or worsen your mood and affect your ability to cope with life’s stressors. Avoid processed food as it is loaded with sugar and calories and is diminished in nutrition. This can give sudden spikes in blood sugar levels and accelerate stress reaction. Nutrients that help to improve your brain health are protein sources like fish, nuts (almonds, walnut ), milk, egg, sprouts, omega 3 fatty acid foods like olive oil, avocado, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, avocado, olives, berries, etc.
5.Get peaceful rest and recreation – Sleep provides adequate rest and is restorative by nature. To improve quality of sleep, to feel refreshed, energized – cut back on caffeine as it stimulates brain and precipitate stress, remove distraction such as TV, computer, from your bedroom and go to bed at the same time to regularise your sleep cycle. This assures that you get good sleep, feel less stressed, be more productive and emotionally charged for the day.
6.Connect and bond with others – In this technology-driven fast-paced life, it is always pleasant to have face to face human interaction, bonding and socializing as it helps to build a support system, strong and satisfying relationship which is significant in stress management as well as prevention.
7. Engage your senses – Everyone responds differently to sensory input but that’s a quick and effective way to de-stress. Try to explore what works best for you – aroma, music or massage and plan accordingly to relieve stress by engaging your senses- sight, sound, taste, smell or touch.
8. The work-life balancing act Step back and look at your life, do a quick assessment of your own and find a solution. On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your current work-life balance. Also, rate your stress levels. If your balance is low and stress levels are high, its high time you must find time for leisure. Pick one activity you like to do and do it for yourself without feeling guilty. The happiness, the positive feeling about this act will energise you in every way!
9.The Art of Reframing- If stress usually results from the way we think about things, then we can reduce our stress by changing the way we think. Identify a situation that is upsetting you right now. Ask yourself is there any other way I can think about is- what can this experience teach me and go forward in life. Look for any positives, benefits or opportunities you hadn’t seen before. This technique called ‘reframing’ and is one of the most powerful skills in stress management skills.
10.Create a Gratitude practice- Gratitude is a powerful force that can expand your horizon, develop an open attitude towards life and makes you optimistic. This positivity helps to cope with stressful times in your life, improves health and well being.