By: Lilliosa Chiurawa
Stress is not uncommon. It’s how we react to stress that can harm our lives. Stress is defined as any change to which we have to conform to. This entails difficult events in life (bereavement, disease) and optimistic ones. It is viewed that finding a new job or going on holiday are joyful things, but they, too, are transitions that involve some adapting.
Learning to deal with stress efficiently will relax our bodies and our minds. Meditation and other methods of calming, exercise, visualization are all effective techniques to minimize stress’s harmful effects. To all my fellow Africans who still classify certain things as being for whites only……..it’s high time you reconsider and practice these things.
In moderation, stress may be helpful. This is so because brief stress episodes trigger chemicals that improve memory, raise energy levels, and maximize alertness and productivity. Yet there are adverse impacts on our physical wellbeing from chronic stress. Physically, migraines, ulcers, pain in the muscles, and weakness can result from persistent stress. Canadian researchers found that chronic stress more than doubled the risk of heart attacks.
Persistent stress also affects us emotionally and intellectually and can cause; decreased concentration and memory, confusion, loss of sense of humor, anxiety, anger, irritability, and fear among others. The link between stress and mental illness has yet to be fully explored, although it is recognized that an episode of mental illness can be adversely affected by stress.
With all this being said, it is good to note that stress can be managed. First, knowing the source(s) of your stress is crucial. It is stressful to have incidents such as the loss of a loved one, beginning a new career, or moving home. Most of our stress comes, though, from inside us. How we interpret things when anything becomes a stressor: a discussion, a performance evaluation, even a glance. Negative self-talk, where we rely on self-criticism and over-analysis of pessimism, may turn an innocent statement into a significant source of stress.
To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:
- Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
- Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”)?
- Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
Knowing where the stress comes from will help you focus on a plan of action. External stressors should be handled over time and through the help of family and friends, such as bereavement or job shifts. Internal stressors, induced by our pessimistic perception, require changes in behavior and attitude.
The purpose of stress control is to cue the “relaxation reaction.” When we feel that the risk, or traumatic occurrence, has passed, this is the physiological and psychological relaxation phase our body goes through.
Here are some tips for triggering the relaxation response:
LEARN RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
It will alleviate constant stress and realign the attitude in a more optimistic direction by practicing meditation or breathing awareness every day. Healthy breathing techniques alone will promote both your mental and physical well-being. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the fight or flight or mobilization stress response. As you learn and practice these techniques, your stress levels will decrease and your mind and body will become calm and centered.
You don’t necessarily have to train for a marathon, but routine, mild exercise helps relieve anxiety, boosts sleep and self-esteem. It’s important to make fitness a routine. Even very small activities can add up over a day. These can include putting on some music and dancing around, taking your dog for a walk, Walking or cycling to the grocery store, pairing up with an exercise partner, and encouraging each other as you work out, the list is endless. For one, concentrate on matching your breathing with your movements or feeling how the air or sunlight feels on your skin. Including this aspect of mindfulness can help you break out of the destructive thinking loop that sometimes follows overwhelming stress.
A perfect way of connecting with and cultivating your artistic selves is to take the time for a favorite hobby. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors.
Set aside leisure time. Include an everyday routine of rest and relaxing. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. Now is the chance to take a breath and refresh your battery from all commitments. Every day, do something you love. If it’s stargazing, playing the violin, or riding on your bike, find time for recreational activities that please you. Maintain your sense of humor. It requires the potential to laugh at yourself. In a variety of ways, the act of laughter helps the body fight tension.
By picturing themselves crossing the finish line first, athletes produce results. Using the same approach to practice “seeing” yourself excel in your head in whatever situation is uppermost. You can even have pictures on your phone to help with this process. Have positive thoughts about everything.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
When we feel depressed, a healthy diet is always the first thing that comes first. It might sound like a hassle to cook a meal instead of buying a ready-made one, but it would be easier and undoubtedly safer for you. The mere gesture of doing something good for yourself will relieve stressed feelings. It is not only about preparing your meals only but also what you eat. Reduce sugar and caffeine – the temporary “highs” of caffeine and sugar frequently end with a mood and energy crash. You can feel more comfortable and sleep healthier by dropping the amount of caffeine, soft drinks, cookies, and sugar snacks in your diet.
Stop drugs, nicotine, and alcohol. A simple release from depression may be offered by self-medication with alcohol or medications, but the relaxation is only immediate. Don’t ignore the topic at hand or disguise it; deal with concerns head-on and with a clear mind. Your mind, as well as your body, is fueled by adequate sleep. Feeling drained can raise the stress and it will irrationally lead you to worry.
CONNECT TO OTHERS
Nothing is more relaxing than sharing meaningful time with another human being who makes you feel comfortable and understood. Face-to-face interaction simply induces a cascade of hormones that counteracts the defensive “fight-or-flight” reflex of the body. It’s the perfect stress reliever in nature (as a bonus, it also helps stave off depression and anxiety). So, make it a point to communicate with family and friends daily and in person.
Bear in mind that you don’t need to be able to overcome the stress with the people you talk to. Simply, they have to be good listeners. And remember not to let fears deter you from speaking up about looking vulnerable or being a burden. Your trust would flatter the individuals who care for you. It will just strengthen the relationship. Of course, when you feel exhausted by tension, it is not always realistic to have a pal close by to rely on, but you can strengthen your resistance to life’s stressors by creating and sustaining a network of close friends.
MANAGE YOUR TIME BETTER
Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. It’s hard to keep relaxed and concentrated when you’re stretched too thin and running behind them. Plus, to keep tension in place, including socializing and having enough sleep, you’ll be tempted to stop or cut back on all the healthy activities you can do. The good news: to create a better work-life balance, there are things you can do:
- Don’t over-commit yourself. Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. All too often, we underestimate how long things will take.
- Prioritize tasks. Make a list of tasks you have to do, and tackle them in order of importance. Do the high-priority items first. If you have something particularly unpleasant or stressful to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.
- Break projects into small steps. If a large project seems overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
- Delegate responsibility. You don’t have to do it all yourself, whether at home, school or on the job. If other people can take care of the task, why not let them? Let go of the desire to control or oversee every little step. You’ll be letting go of unnecessary stress in the process.
By Miss Liliosa Tatenda Chiurawa
Mental health peer educator and advocate
Contact: +263719037352, firstname.lastname@example.org