The word stress is too commonly used today by many people, young and old alike.
We encounter people in the streets and even in their homes and offices ready to explode and go at each other’s throat at the slightest provocation.
They get into altercation with strangers and often with their near and dear ones. We even hear children say “I am so stressed”.
Quite a few suicides are committed because of people’s inability to deal with stress!
In the past two decades, I have been working with people with various health conditions. I list below a few of them:
- Stomach pain,
- Digestive system disorders
- Kidney infection
- High B.P,
- Thyroid issues,
- Heart palpitation,
- Fertility related issues,
- Chronic back pain,
- Weight gain,
- Incontinence etc.
In most of the cases, people have cited Stress as the cause of their problems/ illnesses.
Many state that Stress makes them overwhelmed, distressed or experience negative emotions which affect the ability to deal with day-to-day activities.
What Health Care Experts have to say on this?
I have been talking to many Health Care experts and understanding their view on Stress.
Are people as stressed as they claim to be?
What exactly is stress?
Is stress really bad?
Why does stress happen?
What are the common causes of stress?
Can toxic relationships stress you?
Does stress lead to anger, animosity and depression?
How does stress affect the Physical and Mental health of people?
Does Stress negatively impact the brain, the heart, the memory does it really rob us of our peace of mind?
Is stress necessarily negative?
Does Stress cause cancer?
Can stress kill us?
How does one manage stress?
How important is Sports and fitness for Children and adults to help counter Stress? And so many other questions!
Most Health Care experts, especially those with a holistic approach to healthcare and wellness, believe that a certain amount of stress is healthy and even necessary for us to function optimally.
For example, as kids, exams caused a little stress and anxiety and in later years, deadlines and targets give us the impetus and gently nudge us towards achieving our goal.
Coping with stress helps us in performance enhancement.
I have been pondering over this question: Is Stress necessary in our lives to enable us to function better?
In other words, Is stress good for us?
If yes, what is the right kind of Stress?
Views from Dr. Chaitanya Sridhar
According to Dr. Chaitanya Sridhar,
“We can determine how to handle stress. An individual’s response to a challenging situation determines how he or she views stress. Stress can be both good and bad; the positive and negative depends on how the mind and body interprets it.
Stress, if perceived in a positive manner, can lead to eustress or positive stress and if looked at negatively can lead to distress.”
“If you’ve ever experienced the thrill of watching a cricket match in a packed stadium or enjoyed playing your first match, learning to ride or swinging a racket, or for that matter your first speech or job interview, you’d know the adrenalin rush.
It’s an enjoyable experience. It is an exciting, motivating, heart-pumping stress that nudges to look forward to the occasion whatever it maybe.
Distress, on the other hand, is bad stress that the body handles differently and has negative physical and psychological effects.
Eustress (beneficial stress) motivates us and helps us view things as a ‘challenge’. Normal ordinary things in routine such as every day fitness, for both athletes and the general public, can be viewed as a level and when you conquer one level, it sets you up for the next level, there’s an excitement in the approach itself. So much so that stress can be a motivator that provides incentive to get the job done.
Eustress also helps us focus. We’re in a slightly heightened state of alertness which is very essential in sport and performance. In popular lingo it’s the ‘bring it on attitude’ or an expression or move that says, ‘I’m up for the challenge’.
Everyone needs a little bit of stress in their life in order to be happy, motivated, challenged and productive.
A recent study confirmed that a moderate amount of stress actually improves performance as it provides the necessary alertness and edge to perform better.
When our resources are more than the demand it leads to positive stress. On the other hand, when the demands are more than our resources, it causes negative stress.
It is when stress is intolerable that distress sets in. Physical reactions like headache, stomach upset, dizziness, excessive sweating, cold feet, depression or just a lack of enthusiasm or symptoms of the negative tide. One is distressed when stress becomes too much to handle. Tension builds, there is no joy in the challenge and there seems no relief or end in sight.
Distress leads to poor decision making. Behavioural symptoms of distress include overeating, loss of appetite, drinking, smoking and negative coping mechanisms.
An often asked question is what can one do to reinvent stress and make it work? Awareness and recognition of stress is the first step to reinvent it. Knowing that a situation can trigger stress of the negative variety can prepare one to face it in the right manner.
The resultant stress will work in a positive way that improves performance. The trick is in being prepared.
The methods of managing stress include deep breathing, visualization, staying focused on the task at hand, mindfulness and the likes.”
“Smart and successful people realize that stress is a double-edged sword and utilize it as a tool for motivation.”
Views from Anitha Rajnarayanan,
According to Anitha Rajnarayanan, Hypnotherapist, (who has also begun learning Qigong and Taichi) “a lot of the physical and mental stress that we impose on ourselves is not compatible to the body and Mind.
Take for instance eating the wrong kind of food, not eating on time, not getting enough rest and sleep, not exercising regularly, consuming too much alcohol etc.
These are stresses that one imposes on oneself when they continuously abuse their body. Ultimately, the system breaks down! It is no wonder that we hear of people dying young due to high BP heart failure etc.
Human beings today, have lost the ability to discern and keep the wrong stresses at bay.
Many get hooked to social media apps and waste away hours of their time every day staying glued to Facebook WhatsApp etc.
They get addicted to these apps at times due to peer pressure. They forget that these apps do not define who they are”.
She goes on to add “In my understanding stress is basically resistance. If the resistance is just a little more than you can overcome, the challenge creates resilience and hence growth and expansion. If the resistance is far greater than you are capable of overcoming, it creates overwhelm and helplessness which is negative stress. This could be at a physical , emotional or mental level.”
If you observe nature and animals in the Wild, they do not eat what is not necessary for them… they do not binge!
They stretch their body, move from place to place in order to hunt for food.
They also rest when required.
They are not lazy or depressed.
The same cannot be said of human beings who take on a lot outside stresses onto themselves.
This leads to a lot of dissatisfaction, emptiness, and mental stress.
We are not satisfied with what we have and get materialistic and are driven by unwanted desires and wants like owning several cars houses etc.
We have forgotten to appreciate and derive joy from simple things in life, like our basic needs which is all that is required to bring happiness into our lives.
Stress gets dangerous when we go against the Tao or the way of nature.
Some amount of stress at every development stage in life is productive if we rise up to the challenge and constructively deal with it.
If we do not take responsibility and we offer resistance then stress becomes overwhelming
The Constructive Stress
In my experience as a Taichi teacher and a Qi healing Therapist, I have been enabling people not only to manage stress but to really embrace it!
Stress in the right doses and met with the right attitude and responsibility can be very constructive.
Whilst practicing Taichi, stress is applied to the bones and works very effectively to strengthen the bones and prevent osteoporosis.
Bones are piezoelectric. stress acting on the bone produces the piezoelectric effect and increases bone density.
“Piezoelectric effect is the property of some materials to convert mechanical energy to electrical current. “Piezo” is a Greek word that means “to squeeze.” The effect was first discovered by Pierre Curie and Jacques Curie in 1880. Dr. I. Yasuda in 1957 discovered the existence of piezoelectric effect in bones”.– Quote from Science.com
In doing Tuei Shou or Pushing -Hands techniques, aimed at keeping your Centre, you need to apply enough force and remain soft and rooted if not, you would lose your equilibrium and be thrown off by your opponent.
Applying too much force can create Stress in the body and mind and be harmful and dangerous.
The Tao Te Ching- Lao Tzu- chapter 30 ‘Whenever you advise a ruler in the way of Tao, Counsel him not to use force to conquer the Universe. For this would only cause resistance.
‘When Force comes at you, you do not counter it with Force, Instead, yield, embrace, go around it and move it away!”
Likewise, when you are challenged with stress in your life, approach it with the right Spirit and calmness, then, it will not overwhelm you and can be constructive.
Stress can be healthy
“The effects of stress are manifest in four distinct domains; physiology, behaviour, subjective experience, and cognitive function (Levine and Ursin 1991, Steptoe et al 2008). The term “stress” is used for four aspects of “stress”; stress stimuli, stress experience, the non-specific general stress response, and the experience of the stress response” (Levine and Ursin 1991).
According to Dr. Levine, the stress response is necessary for performance whenever we are faced with a potentially dangerous situation.
Peter A. Levine, PhD, has spent 45 years studying and treating stress and trauma. Peter has been stress consultant for NASA in the development of the first Space Shuttle.
There are circumstances where the arousal level becomes too high for adequate performance, known as the “lamp fever collapse”, or from anecdotal evidence from university exams. Little is known as to whether this really happens under military operations. A more likely threat to performance requiring high levels of arousal is lack of rest and sleep under prolonged activity, as may happen under operations requiring several days, or simply under prolonged periods of wakefulness required under long haul transports (Bowles et al 2000).
Without a certain amount of Stress, we may even get complacent.
Each moment of life can be cherished and lived to the fullest if we live each moment of our lives in awareness and find ways to deal with Stress.
Practicing Tai Chi to embrace Stress
Tai Chi and the The Autonomic Nervous System:
The soft spiraling and stretching movements of Taichi and Qigong combined with slender, deep breathing has a calming effect on the entire body and the Autonomic Nervous System.
Tai Chi includes a series of gentle, graceful, slow and coordinated movements.
Research has shown that Taichi and Qigong can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system and this in turn helps lower acidity in the body.
Taichi and Qigong enables relaxation and ease in breathing.
This increases the demand for oxygen in the blood which helps further in aiding tissue regeneration and internal healing.
When we regulate our body, breath and mind our Autonomic Nervous system, automatically balances itself.
This enables to bring back our body, breath and mind to a Calm, relaxed and Resourceful state.
Taichi and Qigong enables 5 key regulations in the body:
Practicing any kind of Qigong helps us to explore and deepen our understanding into the five regulations.
1. Regulating the Body (Posture)
Tai Chi enables us to bring awareness to major muscles and joints in our body, which in turn improves our posture.
Tai Chi and Qigong is one of the best exercises to work on your posture.
It helps our body return back to our natural and balanced state.
2. Regulating the Breathing
Breathing is one of the most essential aspects of human physiology.
Breathing is a mechanism that affects many other physiological functioning in the body.
BREATHING MECHANISMS and techniques that we would deepen into are as follows:
Normal Breathing or Chest Breathing,
Normal Abdominal Breathing or the Buddhist Breathing,
Reverse Abdominal Breathing or the Daoist Breathing
Embryonic Breathing or Wuji Breathing (Sound of no Sound). Also focusing on the Girdle vessel breathing (Dai Mai Xi) 360 degrees using sounds. In this form of breathing, you concentrate your mind strongly on the exhalation.
Five Gates Breathing- breath is long, slender and firmly leading the Qi outwards around the Girdle Vessel.
Skin- Marrow Breathing
These different Breathing Mechanisms have a compound effect on our body and mind and helps bring our focus back to present.
Thus, enabling us to live a much peaceful and joyful life.
3. Regulating the Mind
Controlling our minds is one of the most difficult thing that almost everyone struggles with.
Everyone is aware of the fact, that the one who can control his mind can control his destiny.
We practice various meditation techniques in Tai Chi and Qigong that helps us to keep our thoughts in check and align them with the greater purpose of our life.
4. Regulating the Qi
Qi is the vital force or energy that is present in every living being and entire universe.
It’s a common saying in traditional Chinese Medicine, that Qi has a natural tendency to follow our mind(attention).
If there is physical or mental tension in our body, then the flow of Qi is affected within our body.
This is said to be a cause of many diseases in our body as per Chinese Medicine.
Tai Chi and Qigong help to regulate the Qi in our body, thus enusring that we stay fit, healthy and active.
5. Regulating the Spirit
Spirit is just one other dimension of our consciousness (wakefulness).
Staying in present is the key to our happiness in life. It is said, that living in past can make us depressed or living in future can make us anxious.
Regulating our spirit helps us to live completely in a moment and enjoy our life to the fullest.
Tai Chi enables us to bring us into that alert or wakeful state which is the key to staying in present and not letting stress overwhelm us.
Let us know in the comments how do you deal with Stress in your daily life?