In order to learn and understand the how to overcome stress, I would first like you do understand what actually the stress is. This info would help you overcome the stress.
How to Overcome stress – understand it first
When your body demands something or perceives any kind of threat the hypothalamus in the brain triggers the ‘fear, fight and flight‘ response. This leads to the release of the adrenocortical hormones (stress hormones) which prepares your body to fulfill the challenges and demands to overcome the threat – actual or perceived.
Small or temporary stress is good and is termed as ‘eustress‘. It enables you and helps you to overcome certain demanding situations. However, when the stress persists unusually longer, it may become unwanted stress or ‘distress‘. When we say ‘stress’, it is actually this kind of stress – distress. And this needs to be handled.
How do people feel when they are in stress?
When someone is stressed they may feel anxious, feel unnecessarily low self-esteem, have lack of concentration, and are somewhat indecisive.
They may have a headache, muscle pain or stiffness, eating problems (too much or too little), sleep problems, dizziness, etc. They may resort to excessive ‘drinking’ or smoking, snap at people, and avoid things and people they may have problems with.
Why stress occurs?
Anything that puts high demands on you can lead to the release of stress hormones in the body and thus the consequent symptoms we call ‘stress symptoms’. The high demand situations may be related to work problems, family problems, relationship issues, personal issues, financial problems, serious illnesses, bereavement, or anything that puts a kind of pressure on you.
Is stress bad for you?
According to the traditional and prevalent point of view, yes, stress, especially persistent stress, is not good for you. There are alternate views on this as well, which I shall mention later.
First, let us talk from the traditional perspective. If the stress persists longer, it may have harmful effects on the body systems. The blood pressure may rise above normal limits, anxiety, and depression may occur, fatigue may become a chronic issue, and heart problems may also surface. Other problems that have been attributed to stress include obesity, diabetes, asthma, and arthritis. Psoriasis may also become worse with the persistent stress. The anxiety which occurs with the stress may also lead to lack of interest in the sex. Depression and premature brain aging are other two consequences that may also occur if stress persists for long.
Other mental issues that can surface include bipolar disorder, cognitive thinking problems, personality change, problem behaviors, etc. One may even feel chest pain, sweating, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, anxiety and the panic attack may occur.
Furthermore, stress tends to suppress the immune system, making your body susceptible to viral and bacterial infections. Excessive acidity of the stomach, peptic and related ulcers and other related digestive and intestinal problems are also attributed to chronic stress.
Impact of stress on women’s health
Women may feel reduced sex drive due to changes in the body’s natural sex hormones, they may have decreased fertility, irregular periods, aggravated face acne, increased hair fall, digestive problems, mental depression, insomnia, weight gain, increased risk of heart disease and stroke, etc.
Is stress caused by others?
The answer to this is ‘no’. You have to understand this before you can learn how to overcome stress. Neither the other people nor the external happenings actually cause stress. It is your own reaction to them which create stressful feelings in you. Don’t blame your stress on your boss, deadline in job assignments, or your coworkers, who also face similar challenges like you. Your stress comes from your own rumination. “Rumination is the focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions” (Wikipedia). It is not the ‘reflective pondering’ which is purposeful turning inward to engage in cognitive problem solving to alleviate one’s depressive symptoms, instead, it is the ‘brooding‘ type of rumination that causes stress. Knowing the brooding and keeping it at bay solves the problem of stress.
How to overcome stress – ways and steps
Now, having understood the causes and consequences of the stress, you are in a better position to understand how to overcome stress. In order to begin, let us know the stress management definition first. “Stress management refers to the wide spectrum of techniques and psychotherapies aimed at controlling a person’s levels of stress, especially chronic stress, usually for the purpose of improving everyday functioning.” (Wikipedia)
Here, in this article, you can find commonly used techniques, as well some new or alternate ways to stress management. You will also find dos and don’ts, tips, lists of stress management articles, books, products, and other resources that can be very useful to overcome and manage your stress.
Being Active – Exercise & Sports activities
This may not cure your stress fully but does help improve your feelings, thoughts, and improve your ability to tackle your problems in a less irritative way. However, do not force yourself to play a sport or indulge in a physical activity that you don’t like. It will only increase your stress instead of decreasing.
Taking control of yourself is one of the important ways to handle stress. Feeling of helplessness (e.g., I can’t do anything about my problem) won’t help. You need to own the problem and proactively try to solve it.
Connecting with others
Talking to a friend or colleague can help you overcome your basic problem which is causing you stress. Besides, if you are connected with others, it will be helpful when you need their help.
Connecting with others is one of the ways to overcome stress. This is encouraged by the body’s built-in mechanism as well. Oxytocin, one of the stress hormone, released by the pituitary gland, in response to the stress, primes you to strengthen your close relationships with others. It makes you crave for physical contact with your friends and family members. So connecting with others actually becomes easier due to this built-in mechanism. Therefore, try to take advantage of this built-in mechanism and proactively connect with others.
Set Goals and Challenges for Yourself
Setting up new goals or challenges, for example, learning new game/sport, or a new language or dancing lessons may have a positive effect on your efforts to overcome stress. Do something new, interesting, and unexplored.
Avoid Bad Habits
If you have increased smoking, alcohol and/or caffeine intake, as a way to overcome your stress, it will not work. Rather it will increase it in the long run. If anything can be useful, it is Magnesium Oil.
Overcome the brooding thoughts
If you tend to brood, try to distract yourself away from it. You can do that by getting involved in activities that require attention and concentration. For instance, Crossword or Sudoku puzzles, watching an absorbing movie (on a topic different from brooding thoughts) or going for a jog. These activities will gradually diminish the urge to brood again and improve you over the time.
Help Others – Caring Creates Resilience
You may consider volunteering for any community work you like. Just try to help others. The more you give, the happier you’d be. Stress also triggers the release of the Oxytocin hormone The Oxytocin helps you to develop more empathy. You become more willing to help and support others. Take advantage of this built-in mechanism and try to help others proactively. This will help you in developing resilience for stress.
Emily Ansell of the Yale University School of Medicine who carried out a research on this said: “Our research shows that when we help others we can also help ourselves“. “Stressful days usually lead us to have a worse mood and poorer mental health, but our findings suggest that if we do small things for others, such as holding a door open for someone, we won’t feel as poorly on stressful days.” (read full article |read research study).
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Prioritizing the work helps. It is better to do most important work first and leaving least important work towards the end. In the nutshell, manage, prioritize and space out your work.
Accept Things You Can’t Change
Try to accept situations which you can’t change. Remain within the parameters, beyond which you have no control. If you want to find the answer of “how to overcome stress”, you have to understand this concept very well.
Think positively and immerse yourself in the world of your dreams and desires. When you ask yourself about how to overcome stress, think of being positive.
Let me quote here from Dalai Lama: “If there is no solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it.”
Motivational speaker Tony Robbins while talking about how to overcome stress, says: “Decide to live in a beautiful state and avoid training yourself to get frustrated, stressed out or sad. Instead, take control of yourself and train yourself to feel passionate and strong.”
Don’t Perceive Stress as an Enemy
A research study titled “Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality.” was published in the official journal of the Health Psychology Division of the Americal Psychological Association, in 2012. [Read abstract or full]. According to the study: “High amounts of stress and the perception that stress impacts health are each associated with poor health and mental health. Individuals who perceived that stress affects their health and reported a large amount of stress had an increased risk of premature death.”
So “take stress positively and take it as your body’s way of helping you rise to some challenge,” says Kelly McGonigal, Stanford psychologist, and bestselling author who wrote the book: “The Upside of Stress – Why stress is good for you and how to get good at it.”
According to her, “Stress isn’t bad“. She highlights these studies I have mentioned above and indicates that stress can, in fact, make us stronger, smarter, and happier—if we learn how to embrace it. In this book, she tells readers to how to cultivate a mindset to embrace stress. She talks about how stress can provide focus and energy and the ways stress can help people connect and strengthen close relationships. According to her, your brain is built to learn from stress and increase its ability to learn from challenging experiences.
In order to sum up the answer to the question, “How to overcome stress?”, it is important to note that the stress is bad and we can’t ignore this fact. However, we can handle and embrace it successfully. If you have stress and if you worry about it, you’d only be compounding the ill effects of the stress and drowning deeper and deeper in the ocean of stress. So how to overcome stress? You need to handle it, and embrace it as fact of life and learn to live with it in a way that it has minimal effect on your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing and it does not affect the quality and length of your life.
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First posted on October 20th, 2017.