Coping with stress



THE word stress alone can make anyone feel more anxious. In a world that is constantly moving, stress has become a common denominator among many individuals. When one is under pressure your body stimulates a flight or fight response, which is also known as stress response. This is your body’s natural coping mechanism to pump blood faster to vital organs to relieve some external stress factors. This is accomplished by your body increasing your heart rate, rapid breathing to acquire more oxygen in the body thus generating energy to overcome the strain.  


There are various types of stress, however not all stress is bad, some is positive and motivates and drives an individual to succeed. On the other hand, negative stress can have harmful effects, not only on your physical health but on your mental wellbeing as well. Acute stress can be defined by sudden onsets of tension in rather small doses. However, they could become more prevalent which can lead to people being irritable and uneasy. Chronic stress is when stress levels are sky high constantly for long periods. Post-traumatic stress is classed alone as a mental disorder that is followed by a recent terrifying event, either witnessing or experiencing it. Victims of the disorder usually experience nightmares, flashbacks or anxiety that can be tackled with professional help and guidance from counsellors and psychologists.


The causes of stress may vary from one individual to the other and the responses may be different, as stress ranges from environmental conditions to emotional pressure. A person experiencing stress may start to perspire, feel sudden back or chest pains and tense facial expressions. All stress types that make a person constantly worry can be strenuous on their health, as they can develop life threatening diseases, such as heart or liver disorders. Change can be stressful like you struggling to meet sales targets in your job, or a loved one becoming ill. The common reactions to a stressful event may include feeling shock, helplessness, headaches, difficulty in breathing and many more.


¦ Ways to cope with stress is to put yourself first, take a deep breath and reassure yourself that everything is going to be okay.  
¦ Engage in physical activities, follow a healthy balanced diet, get enough sleep and just address the problem one issue at a time.  
¦ Turn to a social circle, as merely speaking about these issues helps to get them off your chest and your peers may provide you with sustainable solutions.  
¦ Take time off, this is usually a weekend, whereby people use this time to take a ‘chill pill’.  
¦ Drugs and alcohol in desperate situations may look like the only ‘way out’ but one must remember their stress still remains, those substances are an expensive way to forget stressors for short periods of time, they just increase your burdens. There are always psychologists and counsellors who are a phone call away that could provide professional help. 
¦ Other strategies can be exploited by listening to your favourite music to soothe the mind and soul, or rather take up new or existing hobbies to deviate the mind from worrying. Letting your hair down every once in a while, and soaking in a bath tub could just be the perfect magic trick.  
¦ Alternative medication can be used such as aromatherapy, yoga or using essential oils such as lavender oil to calm and relax you.     


As a parent, stressful events that have to do with children can be eliminated by providing a good listening ear to their child’s difficulties. This builds a solid foundation of unity and stability in a child’s life, whereby children would feel comfortable discussing troubles knowing they have support from loved ones. Being observant of a child’s behaviour is vital because these simple clues can be addressed before any further changes. Reassurance is crucial as children tend to feel stress which compromises their sense of physical or emotional safety and security. Parents should not forget the fact that they are not alone in this, teachers as well as other parents may have experienced similar situations that can provide positive feedback on what worked.


Student and work life can be as chaotic; however, any stress can be addressed by simply taking a reasonable break from your books, laptop or cellphone and speaking to people. Volunteering is another win-win situation as students and employees provide aid while keeping their mind occupied and the community benefits from their kindness. Negative stress can be converted to positive stress with the right attitude as the greatest weapon we all possess is our mind which can alter an individual’s approach to a certain situation. Consider every hurdle as an opportunity to break all ends and push all boundaries to learn something, which is likely to blossom an individual.   

* The writer is a third-year Pharmacy student at Tshwane University of Technology

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