15th Mar, 2016
Often times, people refer to everyday usual activities as being stressful but in actual fact it's the body's physical or emotional response to these activities that determine whether or not an individual is undergoing stress.
According to Medicinenet, "stress is defined in biological or medical context as a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension" this could range from a bad relationship breakup to a dire physical illness and even seemingly joyous events such as wedding preparations or mother caring for her newborn child.
I remember my medical internship year. That was one period in my life I considered really stressful, I was doing a lot of work and late nights like every other intern but it was taking its toll on me. I lamented to everyone that cared to listen, broke down in tears a few times. What was uncanny however, was how in fact some of my colleagues at the time were adding weight and looking really good despite being exposed to same challenges as I was! This got me thinking and I came to realize that aside from individuals having different innate and learned coping abilities under similar stressful conditions, what's more important is how we choose to react when faced with challenging situations. My friends simply made life easy for themselves somewhat regardless of the tight schedules.
An average Nigerian goes through daily overwhelming activities that could lead to stress especially in a city like Lagos; Having to wake up as early as 4am in order to meet up with office work, not to talk of heavy traffic both to and from work place, epileptic power supply that gives one no option than to endure the noise and environmental pollution produced by the famous "I better pass my neighbour generators" and so on, the list is endless.
Health is described as a state of total well being and this includes physical, social, emotional and mental wellbeing. Hence, none is negligible in order to remain healthy. Stress is a threat to health!
The big question is, how does one still come out bright and shinny in the midst of unfavourable living conditions? Not everyone can afford to relocate to greener pastures and there are some people who would argue till eternity to prove that there is no place like home. Besides, stress can be encountered anywhere, anytime and sometimes transcends the physical so in the end, it's not really about location.
Developing positive coping mechanisms will make it easier to deal with stress. Humans are designed to adapt to situations but we have the options of either coping positively or negatively. Here is an illustration of negative coping mechanism; a 35yr old guy who for some reasons hates his work environment and chooses to build up resentment and anger towards his boss or even co - workers, he begins to perform poorly at his job and ends up getting fired. A positive example is a 50 yr old man diagnosed with a terminal illness who chooses to focus on the positive aspects of his life and ends up living longer than he is expected to considering the severity of his condition
Most of the time, our natural responses to stressful happenings around us are based on past experiences. Once we have seen, felt, heard or even thought about it before, the body automatically declares a "fight or flight response" it's important therefore, to ensure that these responses and energy are channeled in the positive direction so that the body doesn't break down.
Ways to cope positively with stress include:
- Write down what's causing you stress: putting these things in writing makes a huge difference because you are consiously getting them off your chest and in some cases when you are done writing, you realise the problems aren't as enormous or bad as you thought. Also, it gives you a better perspective of the problems and insight on how to solve them.
- Break your tasks into smaller portions: when you are faced with a overwhelming task, e.g planning your wedding or office presentation. find a way to break it into smaller components and then take it one step at a time till you eventually complete the whole task.
- Learn to delegate duties to people: don't always be a super hero. when necessary, allow others to help you and trust them to do a good job. At least give them the opportunity to do it until they actually give you a reason to doubt their competency.
- Never assume what you don't know: if you have questions about your health or any other worrisome situation you are going through no matter how ridiculous, talk to a relevant professional and get the facts. Taking this step could save you money and unnecessary worries.
- Exercise regularly and eat healthy: the importance of healthy living can't be over - emphasised. Exercise causes release of feel - good hormones in the body that can relieve tension and ultimately stress. Combining regular exercise with healthy diet is one big step to feeling less stressed and at peace.
- Take time out to relax: always make use of lunch breaks and bathroom breaks (even if u don't feel like it) and atleast go on yearly vacation if you can afford it. The Americans never joke with their vacations; In fact, it's become a tradition. Spending time in a different and relaxing environment is one way to re - energize and recuperate. Bear in mind it doesn't have to be expensive, what's more important is if it's relaxing for you. So, you can either visit "elegushi" beach or decide to unwind on the coast of Bahamas.