Counseling

Manage Your Stress Better

Manas, a young man of 24 is an ambitious individual who wants to become rich fast. He works in an international call center which pays him well. He has taken up permanent night shift so that he can earn more. Apart from that he is also involved in a small scale business which makes him work in the mornings. He hardly spends time with his family members and is perpetually on the go. Phone calls, visits to clients, pressurizing work at the call center, traveling, trying to meet deadlines….. is how the day passes for Manas. Of late, Manas feels tired all the time, he does not feel an interest in anything, gets severe headaches, does not feel like getting out of the bed in the morning…. The list of problems just goes on. Just two days back he made a big blunder in his office and was issued a memo for the same. The boss also suggested that he take leave if he is unable to cope with the workload. Manas was stunned and confused.

What was the reason for Manas’ poor performance? Obviously he was trying to handle more than he could cope with which put too much pressure on him. This stressed him out. Stress is the “wear and tear” our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment; it has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings. However the stress that Manas was undergoing was negative and hence took toll on him, physically as well as mentally.

As a positive influence, stress can help compel us to action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. As a negative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

How Can I Eliminate Stress from My Life?

Positive stress adds anticipation and excitement to life, and we all thrive under a certain amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, confrontations, and even our frustrations and sorrows add depth and enrichment to our lives. Our goal is not to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it and how to use it to help us. Insufficient stress acts as a depressant and may leave us feeling bored or dejected; on the other hand, excessive stress may leave us feeling “tied up in knots.” What we need to do is find the optimal level of stress which will individually motivate but not overwhelm each of us. Manas’ stress overwhelmed him and hence he showed signs of breaking under too much pressure.

How Can I Tell What is Optimal Stress for Me?

There is no single level of stress that is optimal for all people. We are all individual creatures with unique requirements. As such, what is distressing to one may be a joy to another. And even when we agree that a particular event is distressing, we are likely to differ in our physiological and psychological responses to it. Also, our personal stress requirements and the amount which we can tolerate before we become distressed changes with our ages.

It has been found that most illness is related to unrelieved stress. If you are experiencing stress symptoms, you have gone beyond your optimal stress level; you need to reduce the stress in your life and/or improve your ability to manage it. Manas went beyond his optimal stress level and hence was unable to cope with it.

How Can I Manage Stress Better?

Identifying unrelieved stress and being aware of its effect on our lives is not sufficient for reducing its harmful effects. Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many possibilities for its management. However, all require work toward change: changing the source of stress and/or changing your reaction to it.

1. Learn To Relax.

Throughout the day, take mini-breaks.- Sit-down and get comfortable. Slowly take a deep breath in, hold it, and then exhale very slowly. At the same time, let your shoulder muscles droop and relax your body. Visualize a pleasant, restful scene and say something positive like – I am relaxed.

2. Practice Acceptance.

Many people get distressed over things they won’t let themselves accept. Often these are things that can’t be changed like someone else-s feelings or beliefs. If you act in a responsible way, the chances are you will manage stress effectively.

3. Use Your Head To Talk Rationally To Yourself.

Ask yourself what real impact the stressful situation will have on you in a day or a week and see if you can let the negative thoughts go. Think through whether the situation is your problem or is in your control. If so, approach it calmly and firmly. If you don’t have control, there is not much you can do about it. Rather than condemn yourself with hindsight thinking like -I should have…,- think about what you can learn from the situation and plan for the future.

4. Get Organized.

Develop a realistic schedule of daily activities that includes time for work, sleep, relationships, and recreation. Use a daily -things to do- list. Improve your physical surroundings by cleaning your room and work area. Use your time and energy as efficiently as possible. Watch out for perfectionism – set realistic and attainable goals. Reduce procrastination – break tasks into smaller units and prioritize tasks to help get things done.

5. Try Physical Activity.

Physical activity has always provided relief from stress. In the past, daily work was largely physical. Now that physical exertion is no longer a requirement to earn a living, stress can accumulate. We need to develop a regular exercise program to help reduce the effects of stress before it becomes distress. Try walking, aerobics, jogging, dancing, swimming, etc. Any physical activity you enjoy will work.

6. Reduce Time Urgency.

If you frequently check your watch or worry about what you do with your time, learn to take things a bit slower. Allow plenty of time to get things done. Plan your schedule ahead of time. Recognize that you can only do so much in a given period. Practice the notion of – pace, not race.

7. Don’t Dwell Upon Contrasts.

Not all situations in life require you to be competitive. You can learn to notice the similarities between yourself and others rather than the differences. In so doing, you will learn to replace separateness, greed and jealousy with compassion, connectedness and harmony.

8. Balance Work And Fun.

Balance school and work demands with some fun and private time. Hobbies are good antidotes for daily pressures. Unwind by taking a quiet stroll, watching a sunset, enjoying your friends or a hobby.

9. Watch Your Habits.

Eat sensibly – a balanced diet will provide all the necessary energy you will need during the day. Avoid non-prescription drugs and minimize your alcohol use – you need to be mentally and physically alert to deal with stress. Be mindful of the effects of excessive caffeine on nervousness. Put out the cigarettes – they restrict blood circulation and affect the stress response.

10. Talk To Friends.

Friends can be good medicine. Daily doses of conversation, regular social engagements, and occasional sharing of deep feelings and thoughts can reduce stress quite nicely.

11.

Know When You Need Help and Get It-Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. There are many resources available to help students deal with stress and problems, so take advantage of them.

12.

Learn to Say NO- Don’t feel guilty when you have to tell others no. Taking on additional projects or work for others when you are busy will only cause you more stress.

Remember…….Beat the stress or it will beat you!!!!

Shital Ravi.

Counseling Psychologist.

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