You wake up in the morning, scroll down your social media feed for a while, have some breakfast and hurry towards the office, work under stress and deadlines all day, head home, interact with your mobile some more, have dinner and go to sleep. This routine is familiar to many people with full-time jobs in today’s world, including me. Modernization demands a fast-paced life of all of us filling us with stress and anxiety, and the added burden of technological dependence leaves little time and space for unburdening stress and nurturing our social connections. Stress has become an integral part of our modern lives. Being busy and productive is all good, but sometimes we need to slow down and recover, especially after feeling tired or overwhelmed.
Stress was first defined in 1936 as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. A little stress is quite beneficial for us and with moderate stress levels, we are able to perform to the highest standards. For example, feeling stressed right before your college presentation can help you to give your best and ace the presentation. The amount of stress we can normally handle and recover afterward is known as the window of tolerance. As soon as the stress increases above the window of tolerance, it begins to nag us down. It is a myth that stress is in the mind only; our bodies also go through the negative effects of stress. Huge amounts of stress can wreak havoc on our general well-being and overwhelm our normal coping mechanisms. It can lead to immediate symptoms like insomnia, irritability, tension in the muscles, feelings of tiredness, increase in heartbeat etc. Studies have also shown that persisting stress could be a risk factor for depression and anxiety. And too much stress might kill you. American Psychological Association has linked chronic stress with the six leading causes of death, which are “heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.”
No person in this world is free from stress but stress can and needs to be managed. Some of us might fall prey to negative stress management strategies such as drugs and alcohol, but they should be completely avoided for our mental health and well-being. Instead, positive stress management strategies should be embraced, such as deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness, exercising, sleeping well, talking/connecting with our loved ones or pursuing our favorite activity such as art or music. Connecting with ourselves through meditation and mindfulness is as equally important as connecting with others through positive social connections. Research has concluded that more social connection ultimately leads to more well-being and more resilience. While there were many outlets for socialization and fulfilling conversations back in the days, not the same can be said today. People in rural villages knowing and caring about each other, pausing to chat for a while or gathering in chautaras was a familiar sight. Family structures disintegrating into nuclear families adds fuel to the fire; there’s no time to look after each other’s emotional needs and unburden stress.
Neuropsychiatrist and Deputy Executive Manager at TPO Nepal Dr. Kamal Gautam suggests ventilating emotions and feelings with loved ones, taking a break between tasks and assignments, seeking mental health and psychosocial care whenever support is needed and adopting a healthy lifestyle through regular walks, healthy diet and adequate rest, to manage stress.
Finding stress management strategies that work for us and implementing them in our daily lives is crucial. Take time out of your daily routine to adopt these strategies and learn to relax. You can also suggest these strategies to your loved ones and let them find out what works best for them. Understanding how we deal with stressful conditions is necessary so that we can also know when to seek help. You can always talk to a trained psychosocial counselor or a therapist when the stress gets too much to handle. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
“Taking a minute to talk can change your life.”