The feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental and emotional pressure is stress. Stress is our body’s response to pressure. Many different situations or life events can cause stress. Sometimes, this stress response can be useful: it can help us push through fear or pain. However, too much stress can cause negative effects. Long term, this can affect our physical and mental health.
As per the result of a large-scale survey conducted across India in 2019, young adults between the age of 20 and 29 years of both genders were the most stressed in the country. The major cause of high-level stress among young people are peer pressure, pressure to succeed in academics or work and irregular routines. 50% of Indian professionals have reported that an uncertain future is their topmost source of stress as was revealed in a recently concluded survey by The7thFold, a boutique HR and Wellbeing firm.
Every year, the world celebrates International Stress Awareness Week from 1stto 5th November. The day encourages people to sit back, unwind and embrace peace. Awareness about this become even more significant this year due to the tough times people across the world have gone through in the COVID-19 outbreak. We at Medicircle are conducting International Stress Awareness week Series wherein we will be featuring experts in this field to understand and create more awareness about the effects of stress.
Dr Divya Nallur works as a medical director, senior consultant psychiatrist and addictions specialist at People Tree Maarga, Bangalore. She is specialized in Anger Management, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), (Abnormal, Unusual, Strange Behavior), Suicidal Behavior, Psychotherapy Adult, Marriage/ Marital Counselling, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Treatment, Alcohol De-addiction Treatment, De-Addiction, Antisocial Behaviour, etc. She has been awarded For Poster Presentation At Welsh Psychiatric Society Meet - 2008
Are adults more prone to stress?
Dr Nallur begins, “A common misconception is that only adults are prone to stress. Adults and children can both have equal amounts of stress. The manifestation can vary according to the age group. In adults, irritability, angry outbursts, depression, anxiety and more. Children can experience a lack of sleep, inability to focus, unable to socialise and more.”
How should parents deal with child stress?
Dr Nallur says, “As I already said, manifestations of stress vary as per the age. In kids and teenagers, the signs of stress can be different. What may look like normal teenage behaviour, like withdrawal and a decrease in socialisation, may be signs of them suffering stress. So sudden signs that don’t match with the child’s usual way of behaviour should be noticed carefully by the parents.”
“The first thing parents should do after noticing the signs is to open a conversation. Try and find out the cause of your child’s stress. Having conversations in many cases be all that the child needs. Instances like bullying, education or teenage relationship stress can be dealt with by the parents by having conversations themselves.”
“Another thing to remember is that COVID-19 and the pandemic have also added stress in a child’s life. Children are exposed to media where they constantly hear about death and trauma without receiving any explanation about it. As a mental health professional, I know that every age group faces COVID-19 anxiety, kids are no exception. For instance, they would wonder why kids are not receiving vaccines where all the adults are receiving them. Such questions create anxiety inside their minds.”
“After having a conversation if the child is still suffering then parents shouldn’t be hesitant towards receiving professional help. The stigma of mental health is so dominant that parents don’t want their kids to go. On the contrary, a small cut on their child’s hand would push them to see a physician but a more severe problem of mental health gets discouraged from receiving any help.”
Effect of stress on the body
Dr Nallur explains, “The mind-body connection is pretty strong. Anything that happens to the body will affect your mind and vice versa. This is why if the stress builds up in one’s mind to a great extent, then its manifestations will be visible on one’s body. Anxiety and panic attacks are signs of stress on one’s body.”
“The most pronounced manifestation is the racing of the heart, sweating profusely, tremors and more. Many studies have revealed that long-term stress can cause significant damages to one’s cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health. There is no good physical health without good mental health. So taking care of one’s mental health is crucial.”
How to deal with stress?
Dr Nallur mentions, “Just like we exercise our body we should also attempt to exercise our mind. The first thing is observant and insightful. Check what is happening inside your mind. If you notice stress manifestations like outbursts and snapping, then you need to pause and step back to understand why you are behaving in this way. Be mindful and check yourself.”
“Physical activity is not only important for your physical health but also for your mental health. Stay active. Have adequate sleep and eat nutritious food. Things that you can do particularly for your mind is to have time for yourself. This can be achieved by meditation or reading books. Or do pranayama where you focus on your breath and nothing else.”
“If this doesn’t interest you then you can spend time drawing or listening to music. Engage in things that make you feel that you have accomplished something, that make you happy and which bring pleasure to you. Remove time from your busy schedule to relax and unwind yourself.”
Stress and addiction
Dr Nallur elaborates, “Stress is the prime cause of addiction in many people. Addiction to smoking and alcohol gets developed due to one having stress. This is their way of soothing themselves. But this self-soothing technique evolves into a problem. Addiction drives you to use such substances more and more. This is why it is important to not connect relieving stress with such substances. On the other hand, using large amounts of alcohol and cigarettes can cause more stress to the body.”
(Edited by Priyal Shah)