One of the most common words in our everyday lingo is ‘stress’, almost everyone has experienced it. Yet, quite strangely, besides superficially mentioning it. Very few are willing to address how it deeply impacts our busy lives. It is usually dismissed as an inconvenience to performing to our optimal levels, and oftentimes; overlooking it is viewed as the best possible way to ‘deal with it.’
World Health Day
World health day’s (7th April 2021) primary objective is to shed light on health related issues across the globe. It renders a platform for stakeholders working on health-related issues to elucidate on their work, and also mention what more needs to be done. Leveraging on that, today, I will delve into stress.
Causes of Stress
The release of stress hormones is caused by stressors. The two broad categories of stressors are physiological and psychological. Psychological stressors could be an event, an individual, a comment, just about anything that we interpret as negative.
In the specific case of India, it was alarmingly found that individuals are experiencing higher rates of stress as compared to other countries. Especially within the context of everything the world is going through at the moment. The stressors would naturally vary from person to person.
Impacts of Stress
It is important to note that stress is unavoidable, and to an optimal level, it is even beneficial, as it acts as a guiding force to get work done. However, an excessive degree of psychological stress can exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions. Rarely are its detrimental impacts taken into account, especially the ones on our physical health. Stress wields the potential to increase the risks of cardiovascular diseases, and can also worsen medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. Physical symptoms caused due to stress include fatigue, headache, muscle tension, dizziness, a loss or gain in weight, etc.
My experience with stress
Stress has been my constant companion in the past twenty-two years of my life. A time that my stress levels peaked was during the initial phases of the CoronaVirus lock-down in India. Uncertainty and fear had tainted the air of all our collective existence, and deteriorating personal circumstances further aggravated the situation for me.
I was in the last semester of my undergraduate program which was at the time indefinitely paused. Moving back to my parents’ house came with adjustment issues and heightened stress levels with this global pandemic in the backdrop. My high-school Chemistry teacher (a seventy-two-year-old lady) was tested positive for the virus. I felt pushed into a black hole of infinite anxiety, as I found myself perpetually stressing about losing another loved one to the pandemic.
I couldn’t figure how to stop the incessant flow of negative thinking in my head while being locked up in our house. The guilt of not acknowledging the values and education my teacher imparted to me before she was put on plasma treatment was insidiously eating me up from inside.
I wrote ‘thank you notes’ to all people in my life to contain my anxiety, only to find myself stressing all the more, about how I would muster up the courage to give the notes to some people.
I soon realized the distractions at my disposal were scarce, and the stressors seemed more and more daunting with every passing day. Around this time, while I felt a strong need to talk to someone, I also did not wish to burden my immediate support system with my anxieties as I feared it could lead to their own anxiousness getting snowballed with mine leading to even higher levels of stress for them.
In response to these circumstances, I decided to avail myself of an online counseling platform in India. And in retrospect, I realize that was the decision that set me up on the journey of how to be mentally strong. This is where spaces like heyy, come into account, using anonymous chat allowed me to open up freely to a stranger I had no contact with. Until such a time that I chose to reveal my identity. The professional help, compassionate listening, gentle nudges to self-improvement all empowered me to be mentally stronger and emotionally balanced with my responses to far more stressful situations I faced shortly after my initial few sessions.
My anxiety levels were regulated and I found myself far less likely to fall into a vicious cycle of excessive stress leading to procrastination. And procrastination in turn leading to piling-up of work, and the pending work ultimately leading to even more stress! I also found great comfort in cathartically writing out my problems, often in short poems, which also helped me feel productive, as I poured my heart out.
Some other activities that can help combat stress are; exercising, lighting candles (with soothing scents), reducing caffeine intake, chewing gum, spending time with your friends and family. Being assertive, avoiding procrastination, listening to soothing music, and deep breathing. If you find yourself confronted with what seems like an insurmountable amount of load. Do try out some of these activities to see what works best for you.
“16 Simple Ways To Relieve Stress And Anxiety”. Healthline, 2021, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety#15.-Deep-breathing.
“Stressors – CESH / CSHS”. CESH / CSHS, 2021, https://humanstress.ca/stress/what-is-stress/stressors/.
“Wellness Programme: 89 Per Cent Of India’s Population Suffering From Stress; Most Don’t Feel Comfortable Talking To Medical Professionals”. The Economic Times, 2021, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/89-per-cent-of-indias-population-suffering-from-stress-most-dont-feel-comfortable-talking-to-medical-professionals/articleshow/64926633.cms?from=mdr.
“World Mental Health Day”. Who.Int, 2021, https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day.
Yvette C. Terrie, RPh. “The Impact Of Stress On Health: Learning To Cope”. Pharmacy Times, 2021, https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/stress-0410.