Stress – this has become a part of modern life no matter what our profession and age is. Everyone from all walks of life– student, teacher, parent, child, software professional, movie actor, homemaker, and so on – is going through stress. This is a common problem faced across the world. And this stress, when continuously happening for years, results in lifestyle diseases, relationships breakdown, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Today, let’s understand what stress is and how to lead a stress-free life.
What is stress? Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from demanding circumstances. When a person’s capacity is to handle a certain amount of work in a certain amount of time, and he tries to work more than his capacity in the same amount of time, he goes through stress. Modern life is fast-paced life with many opportunities and tight timelines. People or organizations who do more in less time win the race of competition, and this urge to achieve more in less time is the major cause of stress in modern-day.
What are the effects of stress? Stress is experienced in emotions or thoughts by a person. However, it’s just not psychological. Its effects are seen in the physical body of a person because of the mechanism called “flight or fight.” Our body is designed to handle stress through this mechanism. When an unfavorable situation happens, and the person goes through stress, the body’s “sympathetic nervous system” activates this mechanism to enable the person to handle the situation.
For example, when a person sees a tiger and goes through stress, the sympathetic nervous system automatically prepares the person’s body to either fight the tiger or run away from the tiger. This preparation is called flight or fight mechanism. Flight or fight mechanism helps a person to fight the situation physically or take a flight from the situation physically. To enable the person to fight or flight, the below changes happen in the body whenever the person goes through stress.
Impact of stress on the body:
1. Increase in heart rate
2. Increase in blood pressure
3. Increase in breathing rate
4. Sudden burst of energy in the body
5. Entire body becomes tensed and alert
6. Non-essential systems like digestion and immune system shut down to allow more energy for fight or flight
7. Pumped up energy in hands and legs
Flight or fight mechanism is a beautiful gift given by nature that helped humans survive difficult times in caves and forests. Stress enabled the ancient man to protect himself. Little stress is ok in life. Problems are seen when stress becomes chronic and frequent.
In modern times, the majority of the situations which are causing stress like – heavy traffic, daily chores, work challenges, tight deadlines, juggling between different roles in life, relationship challenges – cannot be tackled by running away or fighting physically. They happen every hour and every day for years altogether.
Our body cannot differentiate between the stress caused by the tiger or stress caused by being stuck in traffic. For the body, it’s the same, and it responds with a flight or fight mechanism. When this flight or fight mechanism happens several times in a day and continues happening for several years because of stress, the below effects are seen over a period of time.
Long term effects of stress
2. High BP
3. Poor digestion
6. Weakened immune system
7. Heart attack
8. Fertility problems
9. Missed periods
10. Muscle related ailments
Chronic stress impacts not only physical health but also leads to the below issues.
1. Loss of productivity in work
2. Inability to handle problems in life
3. Breakdown of relationships
6. Constant fatigue in life
7. Low self-esteem
These are some of the short term and long-term effects of stress. It’s ok to go through stress occasionally, and it’s not a major cause of concern, but going through stress frequently in a day for years together is not ok. So, how to handle stress in day to day life? Below are some techniques that can help you de-stress.
8 effective techniques to handle stress:
1. Meditation: This is an excellent tool that helps you de-stress and also helps you build your emotional and mental strength to handle situations in life without going through stress. Stress happens when situations in life are beyond one’s capacity. Beauty of regular meditation is it increases your emotional and mental capacity. It brings you peace of mind and patience to handle life’s situations. Meditation is simple and easy to do. To know more about meditation, please refer to the article “What is meditation and how to meditate.”
2. Exercise: Regular exercise releases the accumulated toxins in the body due to stress, and it relaxes body and mind. It makes you fit and stress-free.
3. Yoga: Yoga is a great tool that works on your body and mind simultaneously. It helps in stress -relief and builds your stamina and capacity to handle more in life.
4. Laughter: Make laughter a priority in your life. Laughing gives you not only joy but also relieves stress. Laugh out loud every day. Watch your favorite comedy shows or movies and use every opportunity to laugh.
5. Spending time in nature: Nature heals your body and mind. Spending a few minutes in a nearby park now and then will refresh and rejuvenate you. Plan to spend your time in nature regularly. Enjoy those trees, Sunrise, Sunset, open sky, cool breeze.
6. Doing activities that bring you joy: Modern life is fast-paced, and it’s easy to overlook our happiness in the face of never-ending to-do lists. Take a break and do those activities which you enjoy. Make your happiness an important priority in your life. After all, we do so many things in life just to be happy. So, take the time to enjoy your life and have fun. Don’t wait for vacations to enjoy your life. Enjoy every single day.
7. Get enough rest: Give enough rest to your body and mind. Sleep well every day. When you rest well, the body gets an opportunity to release the toxins generated due to stress.
8. Eat well: Well-balanced diet keeps your body and mind fit and healthy to handle different situations in life. Plan your diet well.
These are some ways to keep stress at bay. They help you build your emotional and mental muscles to handle stress in life. Don’t go for alcohol to handle your stress. Alcohol may give temporary relief from stress, but eventually, it harms your body, and it’s not an effective way to handle stress.
Go for safe solutions like above and enjoy your life.