Stress and Coping Mechanisms


Have you ever experienced the short breaths and racing heart when you are about to get in to an argument with someone or feel the choking like feeling as you are about to enter the life? The body immediately experiences physical arousal and changes whenever there is a real or imaginary threat or danger. This is commonly known as STRESS (the silent killer). The stress response can be broken down into three phases: the immediate response, the intermediate response, and the prolonged response.

Stress has time and again been known to cause significant damage to our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. And when being continuously exposed to chronic stressors it can lead to reduced daily functioning at various social, occupational and personal level.

What are some ways to manage stress?
It is small and simple changes that can help in managing stress and can be of great help in the long run. Being able to manage and reduce stress has multiple benefits such as better sleep, improved focus and concentration and lowers risk of various health connected concerns for example, skin related issues, heart diseases, gastro-intestinal problems, tension headaches, overweight, diabetes etc.

1. COGNITIVE LEVEL – more often than not, what may be stressful to one is not stressful for another. This subjectivity partly depends on the way a person makes sense of the given situation as a threat/ danger (for real or self-created). Many daily strategies can help you keep stress at bay at various levels of functioning:When it is a real threat for example, ever experienced a dog charging at you or being present in a place where one or more people are talking loudly, then an individual can remove themselves from that threatful situation and move to a safe or calmer space to avoid the body’s physiological arousal.Self-created dangers (or imaginary threats) or negative self-appraisal may be an outcome of learning and conditioning. Examples include fear of heights, fear of closed spaces (claustrophobia), fear of darkness, etc.In order to overcome self-created dangers an individual needs to make conscious efforts in changing the way they perceive or see the situation by challenging their automatic thoughts and replacing them with healthier and rational ways of thinking using cognitive restructuring (a technique used in CBT)Being more accepting of the fact the one cannot possibly control everything2. PHYSICAL LEVEL – chronic stress can be a major cause of various physical ailments, ever experienced headaches after working for long hours with deprived sleep, hence certain coping mechanisms need to be employed using the body.Ensuring regular and healthy meals, not skipping breakfast especially, reducing sugar and carbohydrates in the diet, cut down on the preservativesCreating and maintain timely sleeping schedule is very important for the body’s daily recovery. Therefore, getting a good sleep helps the body repair the effects post stress.Taking up any form of physical activity, running, aerobics, yoga, Zumba, weight training, all are known to be efficient stress busters.Deep breathing and relaxation exercises help regulate any bodily changes triggered by stress e.g., if you can feel ears becoming hot, faster heart beats, shorter breaths it is an alarm from your body to leave the situation and start deep breathing to reduce the physical arousal.3. EMOTIONAL LEVEL – stressors are also experienced at emotional level, remember the time when you had a fight with your best friend or went through a breakup? When things go wrong in personal relations, misunderstanding, verbal arguments with no constructive outcome, it can lead us to feeling emotionally charged up and eventually drained out. To maintain emotional wellbeing we can:Increase positive thinking and practice daily gratitudeFind ways to let to go of the excessive worry or use the technique of worry time for example, set half hour in a day completely dedicated to worrying while promising yourself to not engage in the worrisome thought for the rest of the time!Become more assertive and learn to set boundaries in relationshipsLearn to say “no” to additional responsibilities when you are too busy or stressedMaintain a social circle with people who laugh and make you laugh, who are mentally and emotionally supportive towards you so that you don’t sit alone overthinking about the problem.