When was the last time you felt stressed?

Or maybe an easier question to answer would be: When was the last time you didn’t feel stressed?

For many of us, stress may feel like our permanent state, whether we’re dealing with schoolwork, managing our workload, juggling personal issues, or all of the above.

So what can we do about it? Is stress just an inevitable part of life, leaving us with no choice but to constantly feel like we’re almost drowning under all of our responsibilities?

To find out more about stress management, I turned to clinical psychologist Vithiyah Muthukumar, founder of Mandala Wellness & Psychology Practice.

Vithiyah has a decade of diverse experience in the field of mental health, and has conducted mental health-related education and skills training workshops for public, community and health care workers.

Photo courtesy of Vithiyah.

Here’s what she shared with me:

Singaporeans have been found to be particularly stressed

Vithiyah said that in her practice, she has generally found that at some time or another, Singaporeans of all age groups are stressed.

She pointed to the 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey which found that the incidence of stress in Singaporeans is higher than the global average, as well as a 2021 Cigna study which found Singaporeans to be less likely to have high resilience compared to the global average.

So where does this stress come from?

“Common causes of Singaporeans’ stress include workplace- or school-related issues, as often their workload is overwhelming and they get little support,” Vithiyah explained.

“Other causes include less effective communication in relationships, caregiver burnout, financial issues and physical health issues.”

Difference between normal stress and chronic stress

When there are changes or difficulties in people’s lives — such as exams or during a job change, for example, stress is common, Vithiyah said.

This stress typically passes, she explained:

“We should be able to unwind and feel relaxed once we have adapted to the changes or when the difficult period is over.”

Because our physical and mental health are intertwined in what is known as the mind-body connection, Vithiyah explained, mental stress can actually manifest as physical symptoms.

Some common physical symptoms of stress include muscle tension, headaches, body-aches, chronic pain and bowel issues, and chronic stress is even linked to illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases.

When triggering issues are prolonged or where there are numerous sources of stress over a longer time period, stress becomes chronic.

How can you know if you might be suffering from chronic stress?

Symptoms of chronic stress can include poor sleep quality, appetite changes, fatigue, poor concentration, irritability, chronic pain, and changes to social behaviour.

Coping strategies for dealing with stress

Vithiyah laid out some techniques for managing stress:

“The first step would be to identify sources of stress that are within your control and to apply effective problem-solving strategies to resolve them. Applying attitudes such as acceptance and self-compassion often helps as well.”

Some problem-solving strategies include breaking down big tasks or problems into smaller more manageable ones and taking regular breaks.

She added that having healthy habits such as regularly exercising, eating balanced meals, and having good sleep hygiene can also help with managing stress.

Other healthy coping mechanisms she shared include going for walks, taking regular breaks, engaging in meaningful and relaxing activities, and having a good social support system to rely on.

Physical activities that have been found to have good outcomes for stress management include engaging in yoga and mindfulness-based activities, and calming techniques such as mindful breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

“Most importantly, these activities need to be done mindfully for us to reap its benefits, i.e. having our full focus on the activities and the sensations they bring instead of being distracted by our thoughts.”

There are many things in our lives that may add to our stress levels, including preparing for exams, managing children, or coming home to a mess after a long day at work.

One of the important steps for managing stress is to recognise that you are stressed and be aware of your stress levels.

For people who are interested in understanding their stress levels more quantitatively, OSIM’s newly-launched uLove 3 Well-being Chair utilises electrocardiogram technology (ECG) to allow users of the chair to put a number to their stress levels.

According to OSIM, the uLove 3 measures your heart rate, respiratory rate, and heart rate variability and then uses an AI-Powered Algorithm — for which there is currently a patent pending — to give you a body tension score in under a minute.

Photo via OSIM.

Photo via OSIM.

My colleague tried out the uLove 3 and measured her stress levels before (left) and after (right) a massage:

Photo by Siti Hawa via OSIM app.

Read more about her experience here:

The uLove 3 also has a guided breathing programme to help you further relieve stress while enjoying a customised massage programme.

Deep breathing has been found to be an effective stress management tool. Some benefits of deep abdominal breathing include slowing down the heartbeat and lowering or stabilising blood pressure.

Massages as a way to destress and relax

Another great way to relax and destress is through massages, Vithiyah added. This is because a lot of stress tends to be stored as muscle tension in the body, commonly in areas such as the neck, shoulders, and back.

Because of the mind-body connection, we are able to feel more calm and relaxed when muscle tension is released through massages, she said.

She added that getting a massage is one of her go-to methods of destressing as well.

The OSIM uLove 3 utilises the previously-mentioned body tension score to create a personalised massage programme comprising a unique music and massage formula.

Photo via OSIM.

In addition, the uLove 3 has specialised lifestyle programmes geared toward everyone in the family — the Signature programme for adults, the Well-being and Exercise programmes for seniors, and the De-stress and Gaming programmes for youth.

Photo via OSIM.

Free specialised programmes are also released periodically for download, to meet the needs of the family.

Stress relief at home

It’s clear from Vithiyah’s expertise that stress is something that many of us deal with. The important thing is to find healthy ways to manage it.

For people seeking stress relief — both physically and mentally — from the comforts of their own home, one possibility to consider could be OSIM’s uLove 3 Well-being Chair.

Through its AI Stress Analysis, personalised body tension programmes, and specialised massage programmes, the uLove 3 aims to help relieve stress for everyone in your family.

The uLove 3 helps them quantify their stress levels to assist with stress management and personalises the programme to what each person needs at that phase of their life.

Being mindful and attuned to your own stress levels is an important first step to take, in order to then figure out how to best manage your stress and take care of yourself.

For people experiencing chronic stress, Vithiyah recommended considering seeking professional help to identify and treat personal psychological factors and to learn essential skills such as relaxation, assertiveness and healthy communication.

If you are interested in finding out more about how to make the OSIM uLove 3 Well-being Chair part of your stress management strategies, check out the OSIM website.

In addition, OSIM is on the lookout for the person with the lowest stress score, according to the uLove 3’s Body Tension Score.

Sign up here for a trial to measure your stress levels and experience the uLove 3 for 15 minutes and stand a chance to win your very own OSIM uLove 3 Well-being Chair!

This sponsored article brought to you by OSIM reminded the writer of the importance of mindfulness and being intentional about managing her stress levels.

Top image via Pexels/Ketut Subiyanto. Some quotes have been edited for clarity.

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