Every human being experiences stress at some or the other point of time in life. Thanks to our tiring jobs, faulty eating habits, pollution and, most of all, our lethargy, which adds to the cause of stress.
Everyone reacts to stress differently. Some cope up easily while others may not. Studies have proved that an increase in stress hormones might speed up cognitive decline in people as they age.
This World Health Day, it is important to fight against stress before it bogs you down.
In an exclusive interview with Shruti Saxena of Zee Media Corp, Dr Samir Parikh, director, Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences at Fortis Healthcare, discusses ways to tackle stress in everyday life.
Shruti: What are the major factors that contribute to stress in daily life? If not spotted early, what serious complications can it trigger?
Dr Samir: Stress is such an inherent part and parcel of the air we breathe that it is next to impossible to imagine a stress-free life. Regardless of the age, gender or occupation, all individuals experience stress at one or the other moment in day-to-day life, like a school-going child before exams, adolescents about their relationships, or elders for their financial security. Today’s hectic lifestyle, with the competitive race against time, excessive dependence on technology and the media, along with the consequent social isolation and its impact on the sense of self, are ample to lay the foundation of a stressful life. In addition, interplay of various personal, social, economic, professional, emotional and environmental factors, while managing our multiple roles, contribute to increasing stress in our daily lives.
However, such stress is not necessarily a hindrance in our daily activities. In fact, an optimum amount of stress can actually give a positive push in the accomplishment of our goals. However, more stress can lead to limitations in an individual’s personal, social and occupational functioning. Furthermore, such chronic stress, if not managed effectively, can, in the long run, have major detrimental impacts on a person’s physical as well as psychological well-being, as it could increase his/her vulnerability to not just mental illnesses like depression or anxiety, but also physical health. To name a few, stress leads to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, menstrual problems, acne and other skin problems, headaches and body aches, indigestion, eating disorders, ulcers as well as sexual dysfunctions. Such an overdose often makes a person feel unable to control situations, and thereby might even lead to a state of exhaustion or burnout.
Shruti: How to spot that a person is stressed? What are the early warning signs?
Dr Samir: While being stressed is an inherent part of almost everybody's life, it is important for us to be able to identify its warning signs:
Not feeling like going to work everyday
A sense of failure, anger and resentment
Feeling tired or exhausted
Irritability or anger
Difficulty in sleeping
Shruti: How to deal with a person suffering from stress?
Dr Samir: As a spouse, parent, relative, friend, peer or colleague, dealing with a person who is stressed can seem difficult. However, it is important for us to try and empathise with the individual’s stressful situations. Instead of getting involved in the person’s stresses, we should remember to be calm, and provide a good listening ear to him/her. Sympathising with the cliché ‘everything will be alright’ is not beneficial. It is better to allow the person to release his/her emotions without any threat. Do not keep questioning the person, wait for him/her to vent emotions and thoughts before you offer to look for alternatives to help the person.
Shruti: Suggest ways in which a person should handle himself in a stressful situation?
Dr Samir: The best ways are:
Be calm: Getting hassled is not going to help resolve problems. Instead, it will only reduce an individual’s capacity to search for alternative ways of resolution. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, and give yourself a break from the stress-provoking situation, to allow yourself to look at the problem with a fresh mind.
Focus on the present: It is very easy to get caught up in thinking of the past or planning for the future. At the same time, it is important to reiterate to ourselves the importance of `here and now`. Making a conscious effort to live in the present and to enjoy each moment goes a long way in maintaining mental health.
Use humour: If you make an effort to find opportunities to smile and laugh often, this would not only help lighten your mood but also will have a positive effect on the others around you. This is the cheapest and easiest stress-buster ever!
Be realistic: Remember, life is not meant to be a smooth sailing journey. There are bound to be both highs and lows, and it is vital for us to be prepared for them. Being overly optimistic could actually translate into unrealistic expectations. It is important to set practical goals, prioritise tasks and to keep in mind any extraneous factors as well.
Better coping skills: Instead of trying to dissipate stress, make an effort to develop better and more effective coping mechanisms, to help you not only endure stressful situations but also overcome them.
Be patient: Remember, all these stressors are temporary, and as insurmountable as they might seem, they shall always pass. We shall always be able to look back at these stressful times with a laugh.
Shruti: Suggest some tips to de-stress oneself and manage pressure in everyday life?
Dr Samir: Don’t try to escape. Since stress is an inevitable part of life, we are often tempted to give up certain roles and run into an avoidance mode. Rather than running away, we must instead develop better coping mechanisms to face them.
Healthy lifestyle choices: A disciplined and healthy lifestyle is very beneficial in maintaining mental health. An adequate sleep, a proper diet, staying away from substance, and regular physical exercise would help us stay physically as well as mentally fit.
Maintain a life balance: Effective time management is the key to staying mentally healthy. This is important to ensure a stress-free life both at home as well as at work.
Talk: It is very important to express your feelings with someone. Talking about your stress not only helps in releasing tension but also helps build your resilience towards such stressors in the future.
Be open to ask for help: If you are finding it difficult to deal with stress, do not hesitate to ask for help. Such pressures and overloads can lead to a state of burnout and exhaustion, making an individual more vulnerable to experience depressive or anxiety features. Therefore, one must seek adequate professional help to deal with one's stress.
Take out time for yourself: Despite hectic lifestyle, we must not neglect our own self. We have the right to give priority to our self and our needs, so as to ensure we are able to stay healthy enough to remain capable of fulfilling our roles and responsibilities.
Don’t give up: No matter how stressed your life might be, you must not lose hope. Remember, stressors will not last forever, and therefore this would be just a phase of your life, which you need to face and overcome.