Marvin Gaye’s song, Trouble Man, is a dire warning of sorts. Since its release in 1972, the song has remained timeless in both its relevance and rhythmic tones. Gaye’s acknowledgement of “taxes, death, and trouble” reiterates three inescapable realities of life. The song is literally saying to the listener to be alive is to be continually susceptible to life’s uncertainty and pain. Stress is seldom fueled by certainty but rather it’s the unknown circumstances uncertainty creates that renders us defenseless and feeling out of control.
For the sake of clarity, stress is not anxiety. Stress and anxiety, though often used interchangeably, are very different experiences. Unlike anxiety, stress is acutely symptomatic, situational and is often instigated by an identifiable stressor/strain. While unattended stress can lead to a more chronic form of anxiety; they are not the same thing. Stress is a normal part of human existence and is more appropriately discussed from the perspective of management instead of getting rid of it completely.
6 Ways to Deal with Stress
1. Time is on your side. Because stress is often caused/created by a person, place, or thing, it is likewise time sensitive. Try to view it as a season, a sliver in time, versus a life narrative. The holidays are a perfect example of this; just as sure as they come, they also go. Reminder - this too shall pass.
2. Combat stress with de-stress. One commonality with stressed individuals is the absence of self-care. Stress is hyperarousal in the nervous system to external stimuli and consequentially, results in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain to be hijacked. Put simply, people can forget or minimize the healing properties of their hobbies or interests. Read that book, listen to that song, watch that movie, etc. and then notice what happens. This is all about slowing the brain down and getting the pre-frontal cortex back online.
3. Love, work, and yes, play. Sigmund Freud believed that “love and work were the cornerstones of humanness”. In recent years, we have added to Freud’s cornerstones the equal importance of play. When people are stressed, the natural tendency is to isolate themselves from others, stop working, and detach themselves from what they enjoy. Ironically, when individuals are stressed, they need these aspects of living more than ever.
4. Avoid HALT Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired, is the idea that individuals are more susceptible to cognitive/emotional distress when they are one or a combination of these states of being.
5. Don’t forget to breathe . Research has shown that while the brain only comprises about 2% of the human body, it requires 20% of its oxygen. This supports the inarguable importance of meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, tai chi, and other contemplative practices in managing stress.
6. Reach out and get help. Stress is very treatable and manageable, especially when one is open to receiving assistance. Talk to your doctor, see a counselor/psychotherapist, research alternative treatments, etc. Stressed individuals can experience immediate relief simply by getting an outside perspective and externalize what would otherwise remain suppressed.