What is stress? Is it the feeling that you get when you have an exam and you start studying a day before, dividing your time equally between chapters but somehow you end up wasting an hour or two watching videos of cute animals doing silly things, when you realize you don’t have enough time left and probably going to fail the exam? Or is it the feeling you get when you have an article to submit but you were busy procrastinating that you didn’t realize that today is the deadline and that you have only typed in ninety words while your word limit is ten times that number.

Some people are at their worst in stressful situations; they give up on life, turn themselves into a blanket burrito and cry for being too incompetent or they start puffing cigarettes near a window or an exhaust fan, hiding from their parents, which by the way provokes even more stress and once there are done, spray themselves with an awful perfume, trying to mask the smell of the cigarette that is so strong that it ends up damaging an innocent’s nasal cavity. While for people like me, stress serves as a kick-start to continue a task. I perform well when I’m under stress. The pressure helps me focus and manage time better, which is useful when meeting deadlines, ignoring the fact that the nails on both of my thumbs are half way gone until I complete the given task. However the stress of public speaking pulls the life out of me. Be it three people or hundreds of them, but once I’m under the spotlight, the sweats, the stuttering and the loss of words serves as the beginning of the end for me. On the other hand, debaters, God bless their souls, I have no idea how they do it, but it’s the thrill that keeps them going in such situations.

Stress is present at every step of your life and it’s ok. Life is full of challenges, where there is a challenge there is an emotion or physical tension and in such situations what to we say to the god of stress? “Not Today” (only GoT fans would get the reference). But what happens when the stress you thought was just a response to the fight and flight situation lasts longer than you expected, to such an extent that it starts affecting your life?

Imagine living a life where a loved one is suffering from incurable condition. The time you spend with them knowing that they are not going to be around soon or be a part of a divorce settlement as a result of an unhappy marriage, where you could lose the right to meet your own child. These situations can be stressful to such an extent that they can lead to anxiety, depression or a weakened immune system. As mentioned earlier, in such cases people turn to drugs or alcohol to find solace, ignoring the fact that they are putting their life at an added risk. But what to do when things get out of control?

If the stress in because of an exam or an event that is short termed, bring out that yoga mat that is lying in the corner of your room or maybe under your bed, covered in dust and meditate. Focus on your breathing. I read about “karate breathing” in an article while researching, where you inhale through your nose for three seconds, hold your breath for a second and then exhale through your nose for as you count to three again. Take a walk, perhaps through the woods, at night, maybe you’ll meet someone or something (please don’t), but exercising is beneficial in stressful situations because they release endorphins that are natural pain killers. If that feels like a lot of work, get a hug from a loved one. The oxytocin your body produced will make you feel happier but if you are not a hugger, join the club mate, try guided imagery, the one where you visit your happy place. For me it is a winter night, I am tucked in a cozy warm bed, with a bowl of alfredo fettuccine and my laptop, binge watching a comedy show. What came to your mind?

For long term strategies to manage stress, one should focus on their diet. Carbs and junk food might trigger stress; therefore their consumption should be reduced. Find a hobby; perhaps try paper origami, maybe you could get a chance to work with the professor on his next heist. Focus on all the good in your life and engage in a positive talk with yourself. Trust me you’ll feel better. If none of these strategies work, and neither does any other that you googled, perhaps it is time to seek professional help.

Written by: Izza Raza

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