Search engine Google did a study on the most-searched ‘how to’ questions on its platform a few days before — and after — New Year’s 2016. On top of the list was ‘how to get rid of stress’. It’s been another year and almost a quarter since then but the question still stands. In fact, it’s a given that people are stressed more than ever; the real question is what are we doing to combat it?
Neuroscientist and mindfulness expert Kristen Race tackled the problem in her TEDTalk, Generation Stress: From Surviving to Thriving, a while ago. She says Generation X is Generation Stress. More than half of the millennial generation lay awake at night due to stress. Eighty per cent men and 74 per cent women live under stress due to inadequate rest and heavy workload, concludes a research by ICICI Lombard General Insurance.
Race begins her TedTalk by saying that though she has written a book on parenting and manages two kids, when the alarm clock strikes at 5am, she’s more inclined to reach for the Chardonnay than her yoga mat! “This generation is slowly but surely losing their minds,” she says.
Are they also finding ways to cope with the stress epidemic? Entrepreneur Astha Khetan says without a daily stress plan she’ll crash. Her coping strategy? “Me-time is very important. Running is an instant uplifter. Laughing and finding happiness within me and being able to say ‘no’ when my plate is full are my stress-busting mechanisms,” she says.
Stress coach Jordan Friedman believes our stress reduction efforts should be easy to access, use, and continue regularly. “Do things that work with your schedule and interests; they can be small actions, such as talking to a particular friend, watching a funny video, eating lunch, walking around your block while practising deep breathing. In fact, make stress management a priority just like work meetings, social engagements, a doctor’s appointment etc.,” he suggests.
The one thing that we may be doing wrong to add to our daily anxiety levels is thinking that the answer to all our problems lies with someone else, like our partners, parents, friends or maybe even a therapy chair or self-help book. Former neuropsychologist and stress expert Dr Kevin Fleming says, “Stress is a multi-billion dollar industry today and claims to fix humanity but we have the worst mental disorders ever.” There are days when breathing in, breathing out won’t be enough; stress management has to be made a way of life.
Important vs Essential
Rising stress levels are also a result of the delusions that Gen X buys into. Psychiatrist Dr Avdesh Sharma believes we have blurred the boundary between what is Important and what is Essential. For example, noisy neighbours, poor communication skills, relationship anxiety, getting cut off in traffic, aren’t essential problems even if they seem important for a short time. “These short time irritants add to our stress levels, which results in an over-active brain and an extremely taxed nervous system.”
Life coach Tom Cronin emphasises the need to understand that “it’s not the situation itself, but the response in the body, that’s stressful”. It’s ultimately up to us to decide how stressed we allow ourselves to be, and over what.
In her book, Success under Stress, Author Sharon Melnick suggests ways to alleviate stress. “Surf the wave and lift people around you. Stop taking things personally and become more objective about people’s behaviour. Resist the urge to self-impose stress by having more confidence in yourself. Don’t press the panic button every time you face a crisis. And, don’t let someone else’s behaviour stress you out,” she says.
Step Back, Think, Act
TV actor Mini Mathur beats stress by making lists. “I like to break down my workload so that it doesn’t cloud my memory. Sometimes, I compartmentalise issues and put them far away from the surface of my brain. They can be dealt with when I’m relaxed.” This kind of radical shake-up is essential for rewiring the overstressed brain.
The most important thing to remember is if you keep seeking happiness on a minute-to-minute basis, you’ll lose balance. “Remember, that the brain wants to feel normal, not eternally happy,” explains Dr Sharma.
The final question is how do you know what really works for YOU as a stress buster? Life coach Arvind Devalia takes a step back when he feels under pressure. “If circumstances permit, I go out to get fresh air. This allows me to get a better perspective on the situation. Then I ask myself: What’s the worst that could happen? Is this situation worth fretting over? Will this problem matter in a few days? A key life-changing question is: At the end of my life, will I even care about this situation? If not, then why bother now?”
Also Read: MIND’S A MISLEADING PLACE, LEARN TO DETACH