No Need to Stress: Simple Solutions For An Everyday Problem [Against The Wind: Part 1]

Posted on February 16, 2011 in Health and Life

By Tong Niu:

The recent turmoil in Egypt has been more than stressful to watch. But I am not going to address the revolution itself; I will leave that to someone more informed than I am. Instead, I want to look at the psychological effects, not just of this event, but of the multitude of other demanding situations in our everyday lives.

In November of last year, Sapna Dinesh of the Mother Tereasa Women’s University and Dr. Syama Kumari.S of the Kerala Agricultural University conducted a study to determine stress levels in children. Conducted in the schools of Trivandrum, Kerala, it found that 98.2% of the children studied (ages 4 to 17) showed medium to high levels of stress.

Not only are children subject to high stress levels but women as well. In a July 14, 2008 article in the Times of India titled “Workplace Stress: Women suffer more,” it found that lower-skilled occupations were more stressful and are linked to greater occupation-caused depression, especially in women.

To understand what is causing all this stress, we must first understand what the word means. Stress is defined as emotional and physical strain caused by our response to pressures from the outside world. There are two kinds of stress: eustress and distress. Eustress, a term coined by Dr. Hans Selye, is positive stress. This stress provides the extra adrenaline needed to enhance our performance of unfamiliar or unnerving tasks. Distress, on the other hand, the negative stress caused by extremely taxing situations. Learning to distinguish between the two, and the better handle the later, will not only enhance your academic and career performance, but also prevent illnesses such as heart disease and early death.

Whenever we attempt something new, there will be a period of uncertainty and fear. The stress caused by this is positive: stressed about giving a speech for the first time is normal, and the accelerated heart rate and shallow breathing caused by this will lessen as you become more familiar with the task. In fact, the heightened senses caused by eustress will actually better your performance.

Distress is continual exposure to demanding situations. Working full time and raising a family is a good example, something that is becoming more and more common in an unstable economy. The stress impedes your ability to handle both a career and a family, and continual exposure to such an environment weakens you mentally and physically.

Mental symptoms of stress include tension, irritability, concentration difficulties, and sleep problems. According to the American Institute of Stress, these can manifest into more serious side effects such as insomnia, learning difficulties, crying spells or suicidal thoughts. Similarly, stress has negative physical effects as well. It can cause rashes and unexplained allergy attacks, chest pain, heart disease, dry mouth or swallowing problems, frequent headaches, and constipation. In fact, most addictions start with an inability to handle stress and even minor stress levels can cause a decrease in work efficiency and academic learning.

To handle the situation we must treat stress with a more serious attitude. It may seem like an unfortunate side effect of life, and in some cases it is, but we mustn’t ignore the very serious consequences if left untreated. Here are five simple solutions to tackling stress:

  1. Meditation: By reducing heart rate and clearing the mind, mediation allows a sense of peace to replace the anxieties of work and school. It also helps relax the muscles and remove tension in the body.
  2. Humor: You may find it surprising how much a good laugh can help. Laughing triggers the release of dopamine, the happiness hormone.
  3. Exercise: Not only does this work the muscles in the body and keep the heart healthy, but it is also a great way to release the built up tension in the body. Running, swimming, or even a long walk can help you forget about the day’s troubles, not to mention keep you in great shape.
  4. Massage Therapy: By manipulating the body’s tissues to soothe and heal it, this helps the body rejuvenate and recharge, and the soothing effects linger long after the massage itself.
  5. Talk with family and friends: Often times, conversation is the best stress reliever. By holding it all inside not only causes a buildup of tension, but it also fools you into thinking that the situation is something only you can handle. Speaking with others can help develop solutions that you may never have thought up of.

However, if the stress turns into suicidal thoughts, then seek professional help immediately. However, with these easy steps, we can hopefully prevent stress from accumulating to the point of depression and become healthier, more efficient individuals.

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