Why so STRESSED?
I was talking to my wife about school children and the challenges they undergo. I was not shocked but surprised to know the level of STRESS these kids undergo at such a tender age.
I was also able to relate to the corporate life when it comes to the stressful situations. At the end of the day it is more of a mental situation, which can happen to all of us. Only differentiation could be level of stress or type of stress and based on these how one can relieve themselves of these stressful situations.
In this post, I will try to put down my thoughts on Stress, situations causing stress, types of stress, possible reasons of stress and some possible actions by which we can relieve us from this stress. Some actions may be short term and some may be long term.
The first question when I think about this topic is WHY are people so STRESSED? But, before we go to this let us try to understand WHAT STRESS is? Stress technically is a pressure exerted on any object which may end up in bending, breaking or distorting the object, if object is not strong enough to handle stress. Wow, this is precisely how it is for us humans as well. It is a state of mental pressure on an individual due to various reasons which might end up creating disturbance in one’s life. Isn’t it true? So, if you believe it is true, then let me say it is a principle of life, which is applied in various situations. I also believe that it is inevitable, doesn’t matter how much you try to avoid it. Even in the quest of avoiding it you might get in to the stress of avoiding stress. It becomes a loop. Let us accept, it is bound to happen. Is it GOOD or BAD?
Physical Stress – Muscular & bone stress could happen due to extended period of physical activity like, running, trekking, playing outdoors, swimming, travelling and tons of other reasons. Even, our body joints take stress of carrying our own weight and it takes much more stress when you carry something heavy for some time without dropping it down. Can you relate to it? Good, I know you surely can.
Mental Stress – This is what happens to our brain which is the CPU of our body. I am sure you all have worked on computers and sometimes if one application is open continuously for long period with a lot of data formulae or if many applications are opened together, the CPU hangs and you are not able to do anything. Exact same situation is witnessed by humans as well when you try to do many things together or just one thing but with a desire of greater outcome. Relating it to mental stress, if you make your brain overwork, you tend to lose focus, but still expect an outcome which would have been achieved without losing focus. So, this greater expectation with lesser focus makes you realise eventually that you are not going to get what you are expecting and triggers pressure on mind (Mental Stress)
Stress. It may end up in various degraded physical and mental conditions like irritated behaviour, tiredness, over anxiety, sleeplessness, mood swings, regular episodes of anger, overeating, get isolated and many other symptoms can be visible
GOOD & BAD Physical STRESS:
I take my son for cricket coaching every weekend and I see that he is very motivated when we goes to the ground. After 3 hours of play, he is drenched in sweat, he is still energetic with his achievement stories. By the time I reach back home his stories are over and I can clearly see him feeling tired. This is a result of physical stress. Is it Good or Bad? I believe it is in this case, its good, as he is growing and with a little intentional physical stress in it helps him develop his stamina and muscles & go for more physically
On the flip-side, my mother who is 65 now, still works hard taking care of home, my kids, and her kid (me, yes still a kid) and my father. She manages it all well, ignoring her age. On the flip-side, she has arthritis and she suffers with pain every day because of it. She knows her knee joints are getting stressed beyond her limit. Does she do anything about it? Now this is bad Stress. Another example of BAD STRESS could be any kind of physical abuse or trauma.
GOOD & BAD MENTAL STRESS:
While above topic of physical stress is fairly easy to understand and relate to. What is little complex is understanding MENTAL Stress. We will try to see why it is complicated at times.
Let’s look at a situation of possible GOOD Mental Stress. Although, I haven’t found anything which defines any mental stress as Good mental Stress, but I am trying to give a little different perspective here.
Imagine, you are appearing for a quiz competition, and you are in a buzzer round. Now, as the quiz master starts asking a question, your brain immediately acts, rather starts assuming answers before the question is complete and as it realises the question is different it starts adjusting its correlation process of finding answer. Does this not put one under mental stress for that moment, for at least a few seconds or a couple of minutes? But, as it is momentary in the execution state of that situation where adrenaline rush take you over to achieve something . However, here also one has to control his mind so that he doesn’t get demotivated or feel wrecked after every wrong answer, as this will . Meaning, one will feel mental stress before question is asked, as once the question is getting asked, your concentration is on question, mind won’t be able to think right or wrong as it will be processing the question at that time.
I think, people don’t need a definition of Bad Mental Stress as they would have experienced various situations which would put under tremendous mental stress. It could be a tragedy in family, it could be payment of EMIs for someone, it could be a scolding at school for some students, it could be stress to meet deadline of project delivery for corporate and it could be due to great expectations on someone and tons of such situations. May be it is an endless list.
Who is affected by this mental stress? Is there a specific age, profession, geography where people experience it? Everyone is subject to mental stress. This is proven beyond doubt. Stress is a mental situation irrespective of age, profession, food habits, geography, weather etc.
Even a primary student like my son, who feels irritated, looks worried if he is not able to find a notebook or may have kept it somewhere and assumes teacher would scold him in front of all in class. On the flip-side, my daughter of same age and class, even in this situation looks calm, as she probably understands that either she has to find the notebook or her parents will help her with a diary note to the teacher asking for help. So, STRESS MANAGEMENT is about how do you accept and handle the situation.
STRESS CATALYSTS – Let us look at a few stress catalysts. A catalyst as per definition in Chemistry is a substance which increases the rate of reaction and continues to catalyse the reaction. How it is related to Stress? Alright, as we know Stress is an end result of mental condition in various situations and the environment or factors around us act as catalyst to increase or decrease it.
According to some studies (Available on internet) approximately 35-40% students (teenagers) face moderate to high Stress. Now, to help you relate to it, let us take an example of a school student who is set to appear for his board exams in a couple of months from now. Imagine his situation where, there are various external forces are acting upon him to imprint his goal, or desired result in his mind. These are nothing but STRESS catalysts. Few such stress catalysts are,
Parental Pressure – Dad/Mom to his Son: This board exam is going to define your future, if you don’t study hard; you will end up doing nothing or might become a hawker. (Really? Is that so?). Parents must be the guiding light to help their children relieve stress at this moment. Good parenting is all about understanding your child, not putting him under undue performance pressure and make him feel inferior. It is the worst thing a parent can do.
Societal Pressure – Neighbour asking the student every time they meet, “So, how’s preparation for board exams going on? All set to score distinction?” (Imagine the pressure being built up)
Ego Pressure – Friend telling you, “I have finished 6 out of 8 units, sure to get a distinction this time. How about you? (wow, friends must help each other, but here intentionally or unintentionally they end up putting peer pressure on the student)
Peers Pressure – At times, we observe other students in our society who wake up till late, and get up early in the morning to study. We can just see the light of their rooms and end up assuming he/she is studying too hard, and tell our kids, he/she is going to score a bomb this time, and what about you. Looking at others and not understanding our kid’s capability we invariably end up putting loads of pressure on our kid. Who, know your kid’s grasping power is way better as every individual is unique.
COMPARISON Pressure – I believe it is the worst catalyst of all of the above. Imaging you being compared to your peers all the time whether students for school kids, or co-employee who got an award or good rating in office. This makes you lose your uniqueness. PLEASE STOP COMPARING individuals. IDENTIFY and nurture their STRENGTH, I GUARANTEE it will pay off in long run.
What we as an individual can do to relive Stress?
If we know mental stress is state of mind in various situations, then we also must know that there are a few things we can do to handle the situation if not completely avoid it. Let us look at a few of these,
BASIC STEP: Stretch out your body, talk to friends, play a game with them, call them or listen to good music or watch a movie to RELAX and REFRESH your MIND & BODY to take up next steps. In some physical stress, lifestyle changes like exercising, sleeping or food habits change can straight away solve the problem.
STEP 1: ACCEPT Situation – This is a critical phase to start with. One simply cannot repel any situation as it is an outcome of circumstances at that point of time. If you know what is happening, how it is impacting you, who is concerned and how, and you tell yourself to accept the situation, then probably you
STEP 2: ANALYSE Situation – INTROSPECT. Why this situation has arisen? Can you influence it? Do you think you can handle it? Is it under your control? One may also use the FIVE WHY technique in order to get hint to a wise solution. If it is possible to be shared, and then discuss this with parents, best friend, spouse or whoever you trust (may be CORPORATE BABA). This process of discussion, help you understand, analyse and ideate the situation better
STEP 3: IDEATE & ALTER Situation – Once you have accepted and analysed the current situation and its probable reasons, you must look at possibilities. Imagine you are a detective and want to find a way out of situation. You must, list down, possible solutions, whether you can do something to take control of the situation or not? For instance, we have seen cricket matches where the opening order has fallen like pack of cards and then our former captain MS Dhoni, steps in, though he knows the situation is bad, but works out a strategy to hold on to the wicket by de-prioritising runs at that moment and create a slow momentum. Once situation is in control he changes priority to scoring runs. Same, way we must look at prioritisation and de-prioritisation in every situation. It is even done by young kids. You give them 2 new gifts; they will keep both but will choose 1 to play with. So, WORK OUT POSSIBILITIES!!!
During this step, think in positive terms. Like, instead of thinking I can’t pass in this subject because it is too complex, think if I study these 2 or 3 chapters well which I have understood, I can easily pass and while putting some more effort in others, I can improve on my total marks. Makes sense? I hope so.
STEP 4: EXECUTE PLAN – By now, you would know what you need to do and execute on your plan. High probability is it gets you out of difficult situation and gives you CONTROL.