Let’s bet a 20 here! Open any random page in a health and wellness magazine, and there’s an 80% chance that it would be something about stress, anxiety or anything close to these.
To think of it, stress is one of the most discussed subjects today (obviously, after love, heartbreaks, and the newest trend, COVID). But ironically enough, however much people may try to put it into words, stress is too vague and subjective a phenomenon to be confined into a single definition. The term “stress” as it is used today has been coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defines it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”.
The Mental Health Foundation describes stress as “the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable.” According to Medline Plus “stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous”. The more you search about it, the deeper you’d fall into the pit of confusion.
Let’s just say, stress as a response in our body in a difficult situation. You are standing at the entrance of your exam-hall, your mind goes blank and a drop of sweat rolls the side of your face. That’s stress. The love of your life is going to get married, and there’s nothing you can do. You are walking up and down your room, unnecessarily. That’s stress. A pandemic has hit, and you have been locked down in your home for 45 days straight. You did everything, from making Dalgona Coffee to recreating every TikTok trend; still, you cannot put your mind off the fact that your parents or children are away and alone. That’s stress.
Stress comes with no specific definition or situation. It is different for every person. And so is the remedy! Surprisingly, it’s not just negative situations that create stress. Positive life events like moving to a new house, going on a trip, gaining a job promotion and many more as well can be reasons for stress.
But, nobody said that stress cannot be released. There are a number of activities that are proven to be effective in stress-busting. We have listed 5 activities that are brilliant in shooting down stress.
Stress is ever-present and so is yoga. Dating back over 5,000 years, the miracles of practising yoga has been handed over from generation to generation, and each generation has something to add to this vast canopy. Yoga includes physical postures, ethical discipline, breathing control, and most importantly meditation. Actually, meditation itself can easily qualify to hold a position among the best stress-busters.
Several studies have found that practising yoga at any time of the day can increase productivity and decrease stress. The physical benefits of yoga are quite evident, but only those who practice yoga on a regular basis feel the magic in their mental and emotional health. Scientists and psychologists have been persistently trying to find non-pharmacologic therapies to cure stress and anxiety, and none of them can disagree on the fact that yoga is one of the best options for that. An interesting study done at the University of Utah managed to draw some attention with the insights into ‘how yoga affects stress responses’ looking at the participant’s responses to pain, based on the fact that people who possess a poorly regulated response to anxiety and stress are also more sensitive to pain. 12 of the participants were yoga practitioners, 14 were patients of fibromyalgia (an illness caused by stress, characterized by hypersensitivity to pain) and 16 other healthy volunteers. These people were subjected to thumbnail pressure. The patients suffering from fibromyalgia (as expected) reacted to very less pressure. This research shows that these people also had the most activity in the part of their brain that deals with stress-response. The 14 healthy volunteers had lesser pain-related activity than the previous group, and the yoga practitioners had the least brain activity and the greatest tolerance for pain. This study supports the fact “that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practise is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.”
Plato once said, “Exercise would cure a guilty conscience”, and the world agreed. And why would they not? Over the years people have been themselves witnessing the positive effects exercising and working out has been bringing to their lives. Aerobic exercise is believed to be the key to one’s head, as much as it is the key to one’s heart. Regular exercise regulates blood pumping and has the capacity to exhilarate and relax. A number of clinical trials have verified the use of exercise in treating anxiety disorder and depression. Exercise reduces adrenaline and cortisol in the human body which are known as stress hormones, and boosts the release of happy-chemicals known as endorphins (body’s natural pain killers and mood elevators). It’s the endorphins that are responsible for the “runner’s high” and the feeling of optimism and relaxation that accompanies most of the hard workouts.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “All men need leisure”. So even if it is just a game of football, make sure you count yourself in. Exercising makes your mind busy, and while you are focussed on your workout, your mind eliminates all the stress-inducing thoughts from your mind. The more your body pants and sweats, the better your stress flows away with it.
“Games have sometimes been praised or demonized, often without real data backing up those claims. Moreover, gaming is a popular activity, so everyone seems to have strong opinions on the topic,” states Marc Palaus, the first author of a review published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience regarding gaming and its effects. So when I list gaming as a stress buster here many people would be hesitant to believe, however, this point has not been listed here without proof.
Several tests and experiments have been conducted to look at the effects of gaming on people’s psychological health, and most of them have shown positive results. Regan Mandryk, a computer science professor at the University of Saskatchewan states that Video Games aren’t after all, just a mindless way of wasting time. They do have health benefits, especially in these times, when we are all self-isolating. Mandryk’s latest research reveals that gaming can actually help in reducing stress and anxiety.
“When people play video games they actually have a lot of benefits to our emotional health or social health and our mental well-being,” said Mandryk.
One of the most significant components of stress is ‘uncontrollability’. Not being able to handle the situation, or having no say or action in certain incidents (or, life as a whole) makes us stressed. Gaming can help us recover from stress as they allow us to feel in control, even if it’s just the digital world.
“It allows you to escape psychologically, have a little bit of psychological detachment from what’s going on around you. It helps you relax. It helps you feel like you’re mastering challenges and it helps you feel like you have control over your environment — which are four main pieces to help you recover from stress.”
At the present time, when gaming sits proudly as a multibillion-dollar industry, spread across the sphere, you are getting all the more chances of utilising this digital-drug towards your malady. The World Wide Web is filled with games that are waiting for you to explore, absorb and apply them towards making your life healthier, merrier and stress-free. You can always read a review to find the game of your choice. Websites like Gaming Beast can help you with that. This way, two demons would be killed by a single arrow – boredom as well as stress.
Of course, if you are all play and no work, you are simply nullifying all the benefits that gaming could bring to your life.
Make sure that your tea of life has just the right amount of gaming-sugar, and you are good to go!
Sex and stress are closely linked in many ways. While stress can result in low libido, sex can be a cure to stress. A study by Arizona State University on 58 middle-aged women came out with the result that sexual behaviour or physical affection with a partner significantly resulted in lower negative mood, stress and anxiety.
Yet another study took the records of blood pressure of the participants as a measure of their stress responses during a situation that causes stress, like public speaking or solving a math problem. It was found that people who had recently got involved in sexual intercourse either had lower baseline blood pressures, very less of a BP rise during a stressful event, or both.
All in all, sex has been established as a great medium of relieving stress. It puts a person in a sense of euphoria (even if for minutes), takes their mind off of stressful events in their lives and fills them with a feeling of pleasure. This is caused by the release of endorphins and some other chemicals that put a person in a better mood within a fraction of second.
Laurie Mintz, PhD, author of A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex states, “Having an orgasm doesn’t just buy us a few minutes or hours of tranquility. Regular sex might reduce tension in the long-term, lowering our baseline levels of stress”. She also adds, “Think of it like a medication. You have to keep taking it to get the stress-relieving effects.”
Sex or any other activity that keeps you busy is a way better antidote of stress and anxiety than most of the medications.
Every time you are stressed-out, you must have heard people say that you need a vacation. Well, this is one of the most popular, yet underrated ways of releasing stress. Going on a trip instantly puts you in a better mood, and you tend to forget every stressful thing back home, at least for that time being. Also, it clears your mind off and gives you a new perspective which can even help you solve the very problem that has been stressing you out for so long.
A study mentioned in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health about the effects of a short-vacation on several working-class people “indicated that one single short-term vacation, independent of the mode, has large, positive and immediate effects on perceived stress, recovery, strain, and well-being”.
So, the next time you consider going on a trip, make a note to actually go for it !
Life is inevitable and so are the situations causing stress. We cannot really predict the onset of stress and anxiety, but we can surely find a way to fight out of it. Life is too short to stress, argue or worry. We must always try to sail out through a brook than to splash into the fountain altogether. What it means is, we must try and avoid stressful situations. But when such situations are unavoidable, we should try to find a way to absorb as less pressure as possible and not let ourselves drown into the stress caused by it. Still, if you can’t help but find yourself getting caged by stress, try any of the above-mentioned ways and you’ll find yourself free in no time. If required, do not hesitate to seek medical help.
Life is short, don’t be too hard on yourself!