Stress management
Stress Management Oct 09, 2023

Brief Explanation of Stress Management

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, stress has become an unavoidable companion. From looming deadlines to personal pressures, stress lurks around every corner, and calmness feels like a distant memory. Stress isn’t merely a mental burden; it’s a physiological response that, when chronic can wreak havoc on your body and mind. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that stress management is an integral part of our well-being, and taking the time to nurture yourself can help you manage life’s stressors better.

Understanding the Stress Spectrum:

Cracking The Stress Code: An Attempt of Defining Stress and Its Characteristics

Stress management is a practical necessity in today’s fast-paced and competitive world. There is no restriction on the number of people who can be affected or the age group in which they live. In light of the fact that each individual is unique and different due to biopsychosocial factors, stress affects us in different ways, and it takes on a different appearance and feel depending on who you are.

At its core, the APA defines stress as “the physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors.” Stress is a natural response to challenging situations, triggering the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism. It manifests as emotional, mental, and physical strain, disrupting the body’s balance. The characteristics include:

  • Intensity – How intense or severe is the Stress?
  • Chronicity – For how long would it last?
  • Timing – When does it occur?
  • Affect – How much effect has it had on the person?
  • Expectedness – When is it commonly observed?
  • Controllability – How much ability does a person have to control it?

Let us understand Stress and its Management with the help of a lesson given by a Psychology Professor that became viral over the internet in 2020. The lecture started with a straightforward question to his students: “How heavy is this glass of water?” But to the student’s surprise, who had already begun guessing the weight, it was a lesson about stress rather than a physics problem. The professor spoke to the class sincerely: “The absolute weight of the glass doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold onto it. If I hold it for a minute, nothing happens. Hold it for an hour; my arm aches. All day long, it feels numb and paralyzed. The longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” The professor continued, “Life’s stresses and worries are like this glass of water. Think about them briefly; no harm done. Prolong those thoughts, they start to hurt. Obsess all day, and you’ll feel paralyzed, unable to act.” Ultimately, he said, “Always Remember: Put the Glass Down.

Now, just like that look of realization on your face, the same was valid with those students. This story teaches us a valuable lesson: Letting go of our worries is crucial. This lesson is timeless and especially relevant in our busy lives today. As the students learned, handling stress is about something other than how big the problem is, but how long we keep thinking about it. So, remember this wisdom – let go of your burdens, relax, and enjoy a life with less stress and calmer mind

Beyond the Surface: Causes of Stress 

A variety of factors, both internal and external, can cause Stress. Before checking the list of potential stressors, it is essential to note that anxiety and its perception can vary significantly from person to person, and what may be stressful for one individual might not be stressful for another. 

  • Work-Related Stress – tight deadlines, heavy workload, job insecurity, long working hours, and conflict with colleagues or superiors. 
  • Financial Stress – debt, unemployment, financial instability, unexpected expenses, 
  • Relationship Stress – marital problems, divorce or separation, conflicts with family members or friends, breakups. 
  • Health-Related Stress – chronic illness, terminal illness, physical injury or disability, mental health disorders. 
  • Life Changes – moving to a new place, starting a new job or school, marriage, having a baby, loss of a loved one.
  • Environmental Stress – natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.), pollution, crowded living conditions, traumatic events. 
  • Internal Stressors – perfectionism, negative self-talk, pessimistic mindset, unrealistic expectations
  • Social Stress – social isolation, discrimination, loneliness
  • Personal Issues – addiction, grief, guilt, low self-esteem, academic stress, bullying, peer pressure

Mind-Body Connection: The Dual Nature of Impact of Stress on Our Well-being

Stress impacts us in different ways, affecting both physical and mental health. This can lead to:

  • A weak immune system makes the body susceptible to illnesses. Even issues related to the cardiovascular system, like high blood pressure and heart problems.
  • Significant weight loss or gain, which can be caused by changes in appetite.
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as IBS, acid reflux, or ulcers.
  • Muscle tension or pain, including headaches, back or shoulder pain, and body aches.
  • Sleep disorders, including insomnia or hypersomnia.
  • Chronic fatigue and lack of energy.
  • Premature aging is a result of cellular aging due to stress.
  • Decreased libido and sexual dysfunctions.
  • Increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes or even cancer. 
  • Anxiety disorders, which mean excessive apprehension and restlessness.
  • Depression leads to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness.
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities diminishes the person’s ability to cope.
  • Cognitive impairment hampering everyday tasks.
  • Risk of falling prey to substance use like alcohol, drugs, smoking, etc.
  • Social withdrawal and social isolation may lead to suicidal thoughts, ideations, and behaviors. 

Silent Struggles: Uncovering the Symptoms of Stress

Stress can manifest in various ways, overt or covert, which can be categorised into 4 main areas: Behavioural, Physical, Emotional and Cognitive. 

Behavioural

  • Substance use
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Nervous Habits
  • Procrastination
  • Unable to Relax
  • Changes in motor skills
Physical

  • Aches and Pains
  • Sleep Problems
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite changes
  • Digestive issues
Emotional 

  • Mood Swings
  • Overwhelmingness
  • Loneliness
  • Feeling of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Burnout
Cognitive

  • Memory Problems
  • Poor Judgement
  • Pessimist thinking
  • Racing and uncontrollable thoughts
  • Mental Fog and Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty in Concentration, Inattentiveness

Understanding the Different Faces of Stress

There are two contrasting faces of stress which have distinct effects on a person’s well-being, namely: Eustress and Distress. 

Eustress is defined as the positive stress which motivates the individual to work and gives good performance results. Eustress is like the boost before the race. You may wonder how? So, eustress gives us the due energy or the push start, that can also be exciting, to fulfil our goals and tasks. This stress is more on the manageable side and can be coped up with. For example, starting a new job, getting married, physical exercise or competitions.

Distress, on the other hand, is known as the negative stress that is unmanageable by the individual, exceeds their ability to cope leading to adverse effects on our wellbeing. Distress feels like the storms that overwhelms us. Unlike Eustress, they are drain away our energy, motivation for any task making the already existing task overwhelming. For example, loss of job, chronic illness, relationship issues, bereavement. 

Eustress and Distress, these two contrasting forces, shape the contours of our lives. One, a guiding light that energizes our pursuits; the other, a heavy anchor threatening to drag us into the depths. In the end, it is our task to embrace the positive energy of eustress while bravely confronting the challenges of distress, being mindful of their impact on our wellbeing.

It’s essential to comprehend the complicated nature of stress, including its sources and consequences, to go from overwhelmed to oasis. Stress affects us physically, intellectually, and emotionally and is unavoidable in modern life. Understanding the many types of stress—from moderate eustress that keeps us motivated to overwhelming distress that saps our energy—is the first step in handling it. Importantly, stress management is a comprehensive method of well-being. It entails identifying stress indicators, adopting healthy coping strategies, and—most importantly—realizing the need to let go of unneeded worry. We may overcome life’s difficulties by accepting stress, comprehending its effects, and using suitable coping mechanisms. Despite life’s storms, embracing eustress, controlling distress, and practicing mindfulness help us lead healthy, fulfilled lives.

Stress is not what happens to us. It's our response to what happens. And response is something we can choose." - Maureen Killoran
About author

Karuna Kaul is psycho socio clinical psychologist, who works with all age group people. Her profession motivates her to serve people who are facing behavioral issues. She has over 8 years of experience and has successfully established credibility in the areas of counselling and wellness. Assessment and behavioral analysis and training and coaching. She has been an active advocate of mental health awareness. And all her endeavors in the field are primarily focused on educating more and more people about Mental Health concerns and promoting Holistic Wellbeing. She has done master in clinical psychology PG Diploma in counselling and guidance and certified in drug addiction counselling Also she has done neuro medicine psychology from London University, Kent College of United Kingdom. With an experience of six years, she had worked with various organization which provides mental health services.