Properly dealing with stress
It’s the time of year when high school students are stressed out of their minds, studying for their final exams. Meanwhile, working class people are trying to meet deadlines or constantly on the phone speaking with business partners. It appears as though everyone is unable to catch a breath and to enjoy all that life has to offer besides school and work. In today’s age, a cup of coffee has become man’s best friend. At the same time, despite all this chaos, there are some laid-back people that are relaxing in the sun and reading a book. So, why is there such a big difference in how people deal with stress?
Stress is a part of daily living and reflects our body’s psychological and physical reactions to different situations, both challenging and exciting. It is what we feel when we are given more than we can handle. In a survey done in 2012, over 70% of Americans reported regularly experiencing physical and psychological symptoms caused by stress, which is a pretty high ratio. Physical symptoms included fatigue, headaches, upset stomachs, muscle tension and change in appetite while psychological symptoms included anger, feeling nervous and lack of energy.
Over the course of our lifetime, we are all bound to experience multiple, stressful situations, which our bodies automatically view as danger. In fact, we are all hard-wired with an alarm system such that when a threat or danger is perceived, hormones burst out in our body leading to a faster heart rate and faster breathing. This response is known as the fight or flight response. To illustrate this, one question that psychology professors in university like to ask is ‘how fast can you run?’ Pretty fast, most would answer. Then they’ll follow it up with another question: How fast can you run if you had a 500-pound lion chasing you? ‘Extremely fast’ would be the common response! This sudden doze of energy that is not usually available is your body’s response to the danger. Most see stress as negative but is useful in some cases, like for the procrastinators that have an assignment to hand in before midnight or a test, the following day, to study for.
The first step to managing stress is to identify the sources in one’s life, both physical and psychological. Research published in the American Psychological Association revealed that the top causes of stress in the U.S. in 2012 were job pressure, money and health. However, they may not always be as clear-cut as these since they are often jammed up together. For example, many students nowadays may have to deal with a combination of stresses all at once including taking care of school grades, dealing with friendships and working at a part-time job. It has many benefits if properly managed but can have an extremely negative impact on one’s life if it is too frequent or lasts for long periods of time.
Secondly, one must look at how they currently cope with stress. The situations that are encountered each day can be positive or negative but what’s most important is how one chooses to respond to them. It differs between each person but in general, there are healthy and unhealthy ways. For instance, running around the block or watching a comedy is much better than binge eating or turning to drugs.
Finally, there are some strategies to better help one cope.
1. Avoid unnecessary stress. Don’t place yourself in a situation where you know you are more susceptible to be stressed, such as avoiding a particular topic when conversing with a colleague.
2. Accept the things that you cannot change. Such things include the family you were born in, the teachers you have at school, your boss, etc. Try to adapt yourself to these situations and make the most out of them. There is no point in upsetting yourself and letting your body suffer over unchangeable matters.
3. Make time for fun and relaxation. Set a specific time during the course of the day to have a stroll in the park while listening to some music.
Voltaire’s quote summarizes it best: “Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.”
What cause stress to start in the first place?
In a stressful situation, can you identify the source of stress?