The climate in this modern time, business or social, is cutthroat. It is unforgiving and scary. The amount of stress permeates our society on a day to day basis is exponential. Whether minor but prolonged or short but intense, it is detrimental to mental and physical health.
In this article, you will go through ways proven effective in lowering stress in high-pressure situations.
What is Stress?
Stress is the amount of pressure applied to a particular object. In the case of what this article is about, it is the amount of pressure applied on a person psychologically. Merriam-Webster defines it as “one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existing equilibrium.” Mayo Clinic explains it this way:
“When you encounter a perceived threat — such as a large dog barking at you during your morning walk — your hypothalamus, a tiny region at your brain’s base, sets off an alarm system in your body… increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure, and boosts energy supplies. [It] also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with the brain regions that control mood, motivation, and fear.”
In simple words, stress is merely external forces that have an effect on us psychologically. These external forces are often beyond our control. You cannot, and should not, totally avoid stress. A life without stress is, for lack of a better word, boring; it can even be depressing. But the way you handle stress is what can negatively break us down or positively build us up. Essentially, managing stress is a way of thinking; it is all about the mindset a person has. Lowering stress in high-pressure situations is not always possible, but you can control how you react to it.
Why Too Much Stress is Terrible
If you are constantly living with high levels of stress, you are putting your health on the line. Here are a few reasons why you should maintain a healthy amount of stress in your life.
- Too much stress disrupts emotional stability. You’re overwhelmed all the time and in a state of chronic fear. You can easily miss the simple joys of life. This can lead to depression, panic attacks, and anxiety.
- Too much stress wreaks havoc on physical health. WebMD says that stress can cause headaches, stomach aches, and high blood pressure. It can also cause chest pain and all sorts of sleeping problems. Living with extreme levels of stress can easily break you physically.
- Too much stress destroys mental capacity. Too much stress in your life puts too much pressure on your mind. “How can I meet the deadline? I can’t pay these bills! I’m not happy in my relationships. WHAT DO I DO? WHAT CAN I DO? WHAT SHOULD I DO?!” Diving into extremely stressful situations can paralyze your mind.
Handling Stress Effectively – Proven Tips
Before we continue, let’s clarify that stressful situations do not necessarily mean bank robberies or plane crashes. It doesn’t mean saving the world from evil scientists. High levels of stress are not James Bond films.
A high-level situation can be a confrontation with a boss, a colleague, or even a friend. You may have had a heated argument with a family member or a big job interview. It could just be meeting a very challenging deadline.
Identify What You Can Control in
As explained above, stress is an external force that you may or may not be able to control. In highly stressful situations, you may begin to get overwhelmed by variables outside your control. An essential key in managing such a scenario is identifying what you can control and asserting your dominance over that thing.
Even if what you can control is relatively insignificant, having control over something small can do wonders in calming you down.
NASA did a study on this particular issue. Astronauts do not have a lot of control when they are being shot into space in a vehicle that can explode any second. Yet, the simple act of controlling what they can, their breathing, clears their minds and prepares them to take on the tasks of living in space.
Navy Seals apply the same technique. Their focus on controlling only their own faculties in uncontrollably chaotic situations actually calms them down.
Focusing on what you can control is a great way to ensure that you do not succumb to stress.
Assessment and Thinking
There are two natural reactions to stress: fight or flight. Some people might say that in highly stressful situations, it is always good to follow your instincts. That is not true. It is actually most important to think about how you can approach the problem most effectively.
The fight or flight instinct is a blind response. If you act on instinct, you have no idea what the consequences of your actions may be. But if you take the time to slowly think through the problem, the possibility of success increases.
Time may indeed be a precious element in an extremely stressful situation; you may not have enough time to sit and think. But just like any other skill, thinking is trainable. You can train your mind to assess a problem and arrive at a solution within a fraction of a second.
There are many ways you can learn to think clearly, logically, and critically within a second. Simple mind games like chess are good examples, there are many variables, and your only control is one move per turn. Chess is an excellent way to develop your problem solving and decision-making skills.
Exposing yourself to scenarios where you have to think on your feet is also good. Do whatever you can to make yourself think and assess problems.
Apply the Four A’s of Stress Management
The four A’s of stress management are Avoid, Alter, Adapt, and Accept.
Avoiding stress is generally not a good idea. But you can be surprised to know that there are a lot of stressors in your life that you can eliminate. Learn to say no when you can’t handle it anymore. This applies to both personal and professional life. Bite off only what you can chew.
Alter the situation to help you see it in a different light. If someone is stressing you, assert your dominance and let that person know how you feel. It is also important to note that you have to be willing to compromise. If you need stressors to change, you should also be ready to make changes in yourself.
Adapting to stress is when nothing can be done about what’s causing it. As was discussed above, find something you can control in intensely stressful situations. What you can always control is yourself. Find a way to make yourself adapt to the problem. Adjust your standards, your expectations. Be grateful, instead, for the positive things happening in your life.
Accepting stress is not giving up; it is facing reality. You can’t always avoid, alter, or adapt to stress. Some situations are there and will always be there, in the same way. (Looking at you, rent). Instead of trying to control the uncontrollable, try to look at the positives in the situation.
Making the situation lighter in your mind than it actually is will help you deal with it better. By putting the problem in a humorous and ridiculous light, you can separate yourself from the stress. This frees your mind to think more clearly.
Here are a few tips on using humor to cope with stress as given by Very Well Mind.
Chill Out, Stress
Lowering stress in high-pressure situations does not come easy for all of us. But with these tips, and with enough diligent practice and patience, everyone can begin to look at stress in a completely different way.
Stress is good for us. It keeps us active, balanced, and adds thrill to our lives. And if you can handle stress like a superstar, then you can enjoy life a lot more.