Stress is the body’s response to changes. This usually results in the physical, emotional, and intellectual response. The human body is built to accommodate stress, some hormones and chemicals help our body to adjust to new situations. While some form of stress can be positive, keeping us motivated and alert to avoid danger, it is not the best to remain stressed.
As young professionals, it is important to note that stress impacts our blood sugar, blood pressure, our ability to fight off diseases, and too much stress for too long is also associated with cancer. We need to develop some form of strategy to overcome stress, so it doesn’t kill us.
There is no straight way to dealing with stress effectively, you will find out what strategy works best for you and follow through with it. Here are a few strategies that would be relevant:
Take time out each day to focus on what is going well and the good news
Take about 10 to 15 minutes to discuss things that are going well with you, your family, or your career. When we are distressed, angry and anxious, our mind is primed to notice the negative things and ignore the positive things. Your must consciously force your brain to notice the positive things by taking out time each day to ruminate on positive outcomes in your lives. Life is always less than perfect, so there’s always something to complain about if we want that attitude. It is so helpful to write down at least three things you are grateful for every day, writing them down for even a couple of weeks can measurably increase your level of happiness and contentment.
Limit your exposure to social media and news
Somehow, social media and news have shifted focus from giving good news about great things happening to repeatedly giving negative news so that it feels like never-ending negative occurrences.
When identifying a problem, identify something that is going on well
Don’t always cloud your mind with the negative, for example, there is an economic recession due to the pandemic, worrying about it won’t change a thing. If we meditate on what we are grateful for, we will be in a better mood and state of mind.
Usually, when we are stressed, we breathe shallowly and more rapidly, so much that we are hypo-ventilating. Try to hold your breath for 4 seconds and breathe out for 4 seconds. When you slow your breathing, your heart rate will slow, this tricks your body to believe that there is no threat.
Don’t go hours without smiling, and don’t leave your work without a smile. At the end of each day’s work or activity, consciously walk to the mirror, and give yourself a “therapeutic smile”. Even happiness is a preventive medicine; you can’t smile and not get energized positively. Do things every day that makes you happy.
Focus on what you can control
You can’t control the whole world, but you can certainly control your responses. For example, the covid-19 virus is very much with us, you can’t control the impact of the virus, but you can control whether or not you wash your hands, social distancing, etc to ensure that you and your loved ones stay safe. Look at what you can control rather than what you can’t.
Finally, act purposefully:
When something happens to you or you are stressed, ask yourself some of these important questions. What is important to you right now? Who is important to you? Is getting upset a good way to channel my energy to cherish those things that are important in my life? Acknowledge your anxieties and frustrations, and then decide how to improve the next moment.
According to Dialectical behaviour therapy, the ACCEPTS and IMPROVE acronym is very useful to relieve stress.
A-activities; when you feel distressed and there is nothing you can do about it, think of activities that you can engage in that will help you distract yourself from stress.
C-comparison; compare yourself or the situation to what is going on, and recognize that you are doing well helps you feel calmer.
C-contribute; sometimes you may have to do something about it, for example in the corona outbreak, what can you do to ensure you and your loved ones are safe.
E-emotion (happy); make a list of things that make you happy
P-push away thoughts that are not helpful
T-thoughts (positive); replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts; turn your attention to something positive.
S-sensations; usually intense ones help keep you out of the moment.
I-imagery; use guided imagery, visualize whatever it is resolving successfully
M-meaning; try to find meaning in it, what can you learn from it and how can you grow from it.
P-prayer; the place of prayer cannot be overemphasized in handling stress.
R-relaxation; sometimes you just have to tell yourself that there is nothing I can do about this, so I just have to relax. Exercise has a way of relieving stress by reducing stress hormones.
O-one thing in the moment; a practice on focusing on what is right in front of you at the moment, not thinking about what happened previously.
V-vacation; sometimes you just need to take a mental vacation, allow yourself to check out a little while do something else.
E-encouragement; encourage yourself (“…but David encouraged himself…”) and possibly get other people to encourage you.
Finally, get enough rest. Stress is inevitable in everyone’s life, what makes the difference is how we individually handle our stresses. Be flexible, choose what works for you.