If the title of this article is sounding military like, it is meant to be, because conquering stress is like a military mission. You will need to approach it with precision and only then you can hope for complete victory. Else the enemy will overwhelm you. That is the power of stress. You need to defeat it.
What is stress?
There are two types of stress a human can encounter, biological and psychological. Both are in response to external factors. It is the defence mechanism of the body against perceived threats. Our mind makes the final decision on everything that is perceived.
An example of physical stress would be an artist learning mandala art for the first time needs to sit in a hunch position for hours repeating patterns. Incorrect sitting position or working for long hours without break will stress the neck and shoulder muscles leading to problems like cervical pain. Same for those who work for long hours on a computer accessory like a mouse develop strain on the wrist.
Psychological stress can be internal as caused within by our own way of thinking or external and related to the environment we are living or working in.
But before we go too much detail let us first straightway go to the action plan.
Action plan to combat stress – you are going to hear this for the first time
Social media mental health coaches promote the idea to begin your day avoiding stress. Thats a wrong approach. Running away from stress will only ensure that one day it will catch up with you or you will end up shutting out from everyone and everything.
Instead use the strategy of daily de-stressing. De-stressing is different from detox. Every evening at say 5 pm or 7 pm depending upon your routine, start your de-stressing routine.
Five workable strategies
Approach No 5 – Going out for a walk
Getting out of the house is the easiest way to start your de-stressing routine. A daily walk in the park or a weekly nature hike will relax your mind. Plus it is also a physical exercise. Walking is the best and only fat burning exercise. Pick up your mobile and put on the headphones. Even better if you can switch off the mobile and just play the music.
Taking a companion along is also a good idea but remember that you have to choose a companion, better choose the correct one and not the toxic one.
Approach No 4 – Avoiding specific things
Avoid harsh lights right before you sleep. Soft lights help you to relax. Avoid watching news, action movies and serials which deal with suspense and mystery. Instead read a book or listen to music before sleep time. Avoid late nights. Finish your dinner before 8 pm and all your chores before 9 pm so that you can catch the early sleep wave.
It would be a good idea to switch off your smartphone and switch it on only in the morning.
Approach No 3 – Pick up a hobby or learn a skill
Easiest thing to do is reading a book. But better option is to write. Pen down your thoughts on a piece of paper before you sleep or write a blog article for people to read it out there.
Learn to play a musical instrument, learn a new dance routine. Picking up a new hobby gives the right balance of relaxation as well as activation of certain part of the brain.
Indoor games like chess or carrom especially if played with family is a great stress buster. This brings us to the next approach.
Approach No 2 – Family above all
You cannot compare any stress buster with this one. Family time is the best. But in modern times in cities and now even in small towns, each family member wants his or her own space. Worse, they want to stay within their own space. So a 4 BHK apartment means the husband, wife and each child goes to their own bedroom and eats and sleeps there. But if somehow you can set a routine of family time for at least an hour, it will give time for you to talk and have fun.
If you are able to pull it off, this activity will pay rich dividends as stress buster. But since this is not possible everywhere and every time, we have to move to the more better option.
Approach No 1 – Unconditional love
Ever wondered why people keep pets, especially a dog. Because it gives you unconditional love. There can be many people in your life, but there will be just one person who is offering you unconditional love. If you are very lucky then you might have more than one such person in your life. The challenge is to identify and find this person. A wrong choice means, you will be living in a fool’s paradise.
Unconditional love give you a chance to share any thoughts which come to your mind. That is the greatest stress buster. A person who will listen and never going to judge means that you can share your most darkest secrets. Have you heard the old phase, taking a load off someone’s mind. That is the key to better stress management if your thoughts can be spoken out, especially psychological type of stress.
Other options – may work in some situations
Going out with friends is a good stress buster. But this does more damage than good. Vacationing with friends ends up with a sour taste. Night out ends with more drinking, late nights and unhealthy food.
Drinking wine is promoted as a healthy drink which benefits the heart. Alcohol consumption in any form is bad. Read more about it here.
Yoga is both a physical activity as well as relaxation technique. Any kind of breathing exercise will help you to relax. Any physical activity and exercise will also help you to relax and reset. That includes running, cycling or even gymming.
What is stress – a detailed view
When you are faced with an imminent threat, your sympathetic nervous system gets you ready to face this threat. As cave persons we could face a threat like a tiger chasing us wanting to eat. In face of such a threat the autonomous nervous system starts up the sympathetic nervous system which gets your body ready to run. Sometimes it might get you ready to fight. This is called the fight or flight mechanism of the body. Elevated heart beats so that more blood and oxygen can reach the muscles. Faster breathing to get in more oxygen and most important, release of extra glucose to cater for the sudden energy requirement. Extra energy also comes in the form. of adrenaline which is like a shot of energy. Sense of alertness also increases.
Our response is generated because of our evolution as humans. As we evolved into humans about 50 lakh years ago, we continued evolving till we became modern humans around 50,000 years ago. That is a long time for evolution. Sadly that is how it works and we have no control over it.
Once the threat is dealt with, the body starts of relax to come back to normal from the elevated state. Problem begins with fake threats or wrong perception of threat or worse, threats coming back to back. Evolution wise we were supposed to deal with just one threat per day. But here we are, modern times when everything around us is out to get us. That is called chronic stress. Deadlines, unpaid bills, impossible people, unrelenting bosses, kids not getting good marks in exams, problems with business and so on. Chronic stress will keep your body in elevated levels through out the day. It is the autonomous nervous system which handles stress response as well as coming back to normal. For this to work, your body requires sufficient nutrition in the form of food.
Healthy food habits will help you deal with stress better.
Note for readers – This article containing information on how to combat stress has been written without any technical terms. A detailed technical article will follow.