Have you been feeling all kinds of symptoms, and the doctors keep telling you there is nothing wrong with you medically? Are you just convinced this may be the work of your “village people”? But wait!! Could you be suffering from chronic stress? Let’s be honest, we are living in stressful times; with the Covid pandemic and all its restrictions, economic and financial crises, increased work load, increased social pressure, bad traffic, and all the other problems of modern living. How do you know if you are suffering from chronic stress, do any of these apply to you?
- Are you often moody or irritated? Do you find yourself yelling at your staff/children a lot lately? Or are you angry when people cut you off in traffic?
- Does it feel like you are always worrying about something?
- Does it seem like you don’t have time to do the things that you enjoy?
- Do the smallest inconveniences seem like too much to handle?
- Do you always seem to catch colds or get infections?
- Have you been relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol or drugs to manage stress?
Why are we even bothered about stress?
Studies have shown that long term stress can predispose you to obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, skin problems, stomach ulcer, menstrual issues and low sex drive, to mention a few. It would therefore make sense that if we reduce our stress levels, we could potentially reduce the risk of all these medical problems.
While we cannot avoid stress completely, we can change how we react to stress. Because, it’s not the stress in self that causes these problems, it’s HOW we react to stress that is the main issue. Think about it, the person that cut you off in traffic is just minding his own business; you are the one that decided to get angry and put yourself in a state of stress.
So how then do we reduce stress?
With the risk of sounding “cliché”, eating a healthy and balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, and getting as much rest as your body may need to repair itself is important for overall health of body and mind. Poor physical health contributes to an unhealthy mind.
Relaxation may be much easier said than done, but we must find the time to unplug from our gadgets and other distractions, and simply do nothing. Meditation and yoga have always been great options for refocusing, calming the mind, and easing tensions. Engaging in enjoyable activities such as watching a movie, playing a game, going for a hike or walk, reading a book, or spending time with someone/people you care about. Healthy relationships make dealing with harder days and difficult situations much easier to bear.
Volunteering is also a wonderful way to relive stress. Sometimes, helping others while struggling yourself can help you feel better by making a positive change and making your time feel more valuable and worth the effort.
Sometimes, when a stress-inducing situation is not easily resolved, and its effects are making it hard to function in everyday activities and responsibilities, the best option may be to seek professional help. It doesn’t meat you are “crazy”, just like if you have malaria, you see a doctor, when you have stress related issues, you see a Psychologist. Counseling, and psychotherapy, can assist in reducing stress-related symptoms, providing insight and clarity, and also providing support.