Post 2: Stress management… Get On It.

When do we get stressed? Well, that’s a fairly general question with an obvious answer. We get stressed throughout the day. The alarm that wakes us up for class or work stresses us. When we realize we barely had any sleep last night and we have a long day ahead of us, we get stressed. When we have a pile of homework assignments and midterms to study for that we don’t know how the hell we’re going to do everything in time, we get stressed. We can also get stressed from positive events that we look forward to, not only from the things that we dread doing. Working on that artwork that’s coming along really nicely and being really into it so that we spend all day working on it can get us stressed. The anticipation of getting paid so we can buy that new phone we’ve been wanting can get us stressed. These little things that stress our throughout our day, have an official name in psychology: microstressors. The name doesn’t really make them sound intimidating or particularly important does it? But in actuality, all this little bits of stress we acquire throughout our day, all these microstressors we experience, can really get us down.

We see a whole bunch of lists and tips online about how to deal with stress. All those articles in popular websites with titles like “13 Tips to Ease Stress” or “8 Stress-Busting Tips From Experts”. But why are they so popular? Why are there so many of these articles with dubious credibility giving us tips and advice on how to deal with stress? They speak to all of us. We all get stressed. Stress brings our mood down, can make us cranky and irritable. It can affect our performance in tasks since we can’t focus properly from the pressure accumulated on us. But the main dangers of stress are unseen and come about gradually over time.

You probably know how stress can compromise the immune system. Have you noticed how seemingly everyone seems to get a cold or the flu around the time of midterm and final exams? Stress weakens our body’s response to disease and illness by weakening the immune system. This is a proven and heavily studied effect of stress. There is even a branch of psychology called psychoneuroimmunology (fancy name right?) that specifically studies the link between psychological factors (such as stress), the brain and nervous system to the immune system.

Basically what happens that results in illness when we get stressed is this. Stress gets us down, we get into a negative emotional state that includes anxiousness, irritability, or worry. This leads us to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as eating unhealthy or eating less, not exercising, not sleeping well, even less importance placed in hygienic practices. Add stress hormones to the equation. Cortisol, one of the hormones released when we’re stressed, increases sugar in the blood. Adrenaline is also released when we’re stressed, and this increases blood pressure and heart rate. With these stress hormones and changes to unhealthy behaviors, we eventually become sick. With a cold. The flu. Or worse, long term illness. Such as heart disease.

So these microstressors. This tiny, seemingly insignificant stress. Builds up over the day, the week, the month. It gets to reach chronic stress, when we’re stressed all the time on a daily basis for a long period of time. Chronic stress can lead to major health risks in the future. So the importance of dealing with this stress as it comes, on a daily basis as well, is extremely important. And dealing with them appropriately, is of utmost importance. Instead of avoiding the stress we feel, hiding it away and ignoring it. We can proactively solve it head on. Perhaps a change of habits can help. Better time management if we find we don’t have enough time to get everything done. A positive perspective and way of thinking when we find ourselves having negative emotions and reactions. Social support can help enormously. Telling our friends about things that are stressing us can help us feel better, and even receive helpful advice and aid from people we trust.

So what I’m saying is. Don’t let stress fool you. Little stress can turn into big stress. Don’t overlook its negative effects. When you do feel stressed and we all do, be proactive about dealing with it. Organize your time, practice positive thinking, share with others. Don’t let that stress pile up like all that studying and assignments and work you have to do. Who knows, it might even help you get done with those assignments more efficiently.

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