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Overcoming our stressors – Part 1


Photo Credit: Valour Digest

Just imagine holding up a can of Coca Cola? Now vigorously shake up this can and open it. The resultant splash we all know will be catastrophic because the ejection of this soft drink will be uncontrollable. Imagine another scenario where this same can is also shaken and allowed to sit for five minutes, then opened. The stress is in the “fizz” and it is acknowledged the difference will be the exact opposite. Stressors are our challenges in life and they need to have an outlet. Which one will it be for you? The earlier or later scenario? Stress basically, occurs when life stressors outweigh the employed coping skills.

May I first say that you should “keep away from negative people.” They have a problem for every solution” (Albert Einstein). Choose your friends carefully, positive friends lift and encourage you. Negative people drag you down and are a source of disappointments and low self-esteem. Second, you may be unaware of stress stealing your joy. The head or body ache that just will not go away. The reoccurrence of those sleepless nights, or your productivity at work going south. There could be no other villain for this malady than stress. The symptoms of these kill joy can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. But having the ability to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a head start managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

In my teenage years I use to believe that people who travel abroad was “I have arrived” or a ‘show off’ of wealth to family and friends. Well, maybe in a few cases. Now I know better. It is a stress reliever as you shall find out later in this article. The common effects of stress on your; body include headache, Muscle tension or pain, Chest pain, Fatigue, Change in sex drive, Stomach upset, Insomnia; mood includes Anxiety, Restlessness, Lack of focus, being overwhelmed, anger, depression; behavior includes Over or under eating, Drug (including alcohol and tobacco) abuse, Social withdrawal, Not Exercising enough. If you are feeling stressed, there are steps you can take to feel better. As you peruse the following suggestions, remember that coping with stress will not come from a half-baked effort, nor will it come overnight. It will take determination, persistence and time. Some recommendations may help immediately, but if your stress level doesn’t seem to improve, it may require more attention and lifestyle changes.


Balancing Act?
For most of us, our coping abilities far outweigh or edge out our stressors. For some, their stressors surpass their coping skills which can be very dangerous. Being an adult navigating life can be a difficult balancing act. It is easy to get weighed down with the pressures of work, relationships, social life, and family. If personal problems are piled on top of these pressures, one can feel overwhelmed . . . and lose balance.

Navigating the Balance
Some of the personal problems one has to negotiate are what I will call ‘heavy lifters’ the lack of infrastructure, social failures and personal/character flaws like power outages, armed robbery, kidnapping, loneliness, unemployment, divorce, financial pressures, death of a loved one, unplanned pregnancy, pressures from family, medical and mental health problems, and discrimination. However, what I would call ‘stress busters’ i.e. pressure relievers like keeping a sense of humor, socializing with family and friends (social support), having hobbies, listening to your favorite music, travel, motivation, a balanced diet, avoiding drug use (tobacco use, excess caffeine and excess alcohol intake, and the use of illicit substances) and therapy are excellent ways to cope. Now these stressors and coping skills will be addressed.

Power Outage:
This is an infrastructure failure. Although many in the more affluent areas have inoculated themselves from this menace, Nigeria is suffering from the worst energy crisis in its history, resulting in its rural communities being subjected to massive power outages, daily. An outage causes computers to shut down unexpectedly. Any files you were working on could be lost or become corrupted. If power outages occur frequently, they can damage your hard drive and reduce its lifespan. This can cause long-term damage to your equipment. Energy promotes economic well-being and makes social life worthwhile but its absence causes massive disruption and stress to the citizenry social wellbeing.

Armed robbery:
This writer believes this is also a failure of infrastructure. There is the untrustworthiness and unavailability of law enforcement agencies to combat this atrocity. Armed robbery is one of the most serious dangerous crimes committed. A robber commits a holdup because he or she believes that the profit will be worth the risk. This can lead to a loss of life and property is extremely stressful on the victim. However, by decreasing the possible profit and increasing the risk of apprehension, potential victims can reduce the chance of becoming a target. Personal safety is always the most important consideration when planning how to react to an armed robbery.

It is believed they hold their captives longer in order to demand more money from the victim’s relatives or associates. This can be very stressful for the victim, relatives and associates. There are many causes of kidnapping, including unemployment, poverty, religion and political issues. Sometimes, ordinary citizens participate in kidnappings in order to line their pockets, usually youths who are hired by rich men to do their dirty business. The criminals will target rich families and sometimes demand exorbitant amounts.

A lack of close friends and a dearth of broader social contact generally bring the emotional discomfort or distress known as loneliness. It begins with an awareness of a deficiency of relationships. This cognitive awareness plays through our brain with an emotional soundtrack. It makes us sad. We might feel an emptiness. We may be filled with a longing for contact. We feel isolated, distanced from others, deprived. These feelings tear away at our emotional well-being.

Being unemployed can lead to depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and other mental health issues, especially if an individual truly wants a job but can’t find employment. Traditionally, in the short term, family and friends tend to fill this vacuum. Now this may not be the case as these arenas are also under financial strain. Tension can occur, causing stress on the body. Remember, when unemployed there is no income, which leads to poverty.

People who undergo divorce face a variety of psychological issues including increased stress, lower life satisfaction, depression, increased medical visits, and an overall increase in mortality risk compared to those who remain married. Along with losing the benefits of a happy marriage, which can act as a buffer against the normal stress in life, there is also the divorce process itself. Depending on where people happen to live and the specific circumstances, divorce can be a long and drawn-out legal process involving mutual blame-casting and being forced to give testimony on many of the most sordid details of why a marriage happened to fail. Add in the trauma involved in custody battles over children of the marriage and the entire divorce process can be a nightmare for many people.

This in itself can lead to trauma. The loss of a home is often accompanied by loss of community, possessions, and security. There are those with severe and persistent mental illness or those who have experienced multiple traumas, and that what these individuals have in common is an internal, ongoing terror, as well as loneliness, despair, fear, and dread. Even the lives of their families are affected. If contact is not maintained, the family may be worried about the unknown state of their homeless family member.

Financial pressures:
As a clinician, I have seen financial stress contribute to feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, and relationship problems. Studies have found that people experiencing financial stress are at greater risk for insomnia, depression and psychological distress, migraines, and higher blood pressure. Individuals (Journal Psychosomatic Medicine 2016) who experience major financial stressors report greater levels of psychological distress and lower levels of psychological well-being. People (Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 2016) who are less educated, unmarried, or nearing retirement age are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of stress associated with short-term debt like unpaid bills.


Death of a loved one:
The bereaved may experience crying spells, trouble sleeping, changes in appetite, or lack of productivity at work. At first, one may find it hard to accept that the loss has actually occurred. Feelings of anger may also arise. The anger may be directed toward doctors and nurses, God, other loved ones, oneself, or even the person who has died. The grieving person may experience feelings of guilt, with sentiments such as “I should have…”, “I could have…”, or “I wish I had…” Emotions may be very intense, and the bereaved person may have mood swings. These are all normal reactions to loss.

Unplanned pregnancy:
Talk to those around you whom you know to be non-judgmental, supportive and balanced. This type of support is so important. Once you feel you have had time to go through some of this process, then it may help to clarify all of the feelings that you have been dealing with, if you speak to a non-judgmental professional, who is also going to be a neutral person in your life. Whether planned or unplanned, pregnancy is a very personal experience. Trust that you have psychologically and truthfully assessed your own unique situation.

Pressures from family:
Here are just a few of the dangers experienced when families put one under enormous amount of pressure. There will be higher rates of mental illness, increased risk of suicide, self-esteem problems, and sleep deprivation, 

Mental health problems:
Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function. A mental illness can make you miserable and can cause problems in your daily life, such as at school or work or in relationships. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy).

Boko Haram Terrorism:
Results according to (P.Adepelumi, 2018) showed that all the participants reported negative symptoms of mental health disorders, which did not lead to permanent mental health illnesses. However other reports (L Giardinelli, 2017) reflect differently. Victims of violence report suffering from psychological distress, sometimes severe. Many complain of deep fear, sleeplessness and/or nightmares, generalized anxiety and unexplained somatic symptoms, such as body pain, stomachache and headache. Women and girls who have managed to escape Boko Haram are often marginalized and stigmatized by their communities, who fear that former abductees have been radicalized. The lack of trust these women and girls feel leads them to isolate themselves from their social networks. Some are rejected and abandoned by their families and communities.

Stress Busters
Social support
This means having friends and other people, including family, to turn to in times of need or crisis to give you a broader focus and positive self-image.  It enhances quality of life and provides a buffer against adverse life events. The Types of Social Support include; Emotional: Expressions of empathy, love, trust and caring. Instrumental: Tangible aid and service. Informational: Advice, suggestions, and information. Appraisal: Information that is useful for self-evaluation. The presence of social support significantly predicts the individual’s ability to cope with stress. Social support not only helps improve a person’s well-being, it affects the immune system as well. Thus, it also a major factor in preventing negative symptoms such as depression and anxiety from developing. Social support helps people cope better with stress.

Stress has been shown to have serious health consequences ranging from reduced immunity to increased risk of heart disease. Social support reduces psychological distress and promotes adjustments that counteract high stress levels. People with low amounts of social support report higher instances of depression, anxiety, and mental disorders. … Social support works by promoting adaptive appraisal that in turn leads to increased coping ability.

A good sense of humor has been implicated as a quality that could contribute to psychological well-being. The mechanisms through which sense of humor might operate include helping to reappraise threats, serving as a character strength, or facilitating happiness. According to (A. Cann & C. Collette 2014), whilst a good sense of humor can lead to greater resilience and better psychological health, the current results, focusing on stable affect, find only self-enhancing humor provides reliable benefits.

Social support.
This seems to moderate genetic and environmental vulnerabilities for mental illness, possibly by effects through other psychosocial factors, such as fostering effective coping strategies. Furthermore, it will be important for researchers to conceptualize, test, and apply effective interventions specifically aimed at increasing social support for those who are under severe stress.

Transitioning the focus from the chaos of life to a fun, easy, and enjoyable task can instantly help reduce stress levels. Harness this benefit by opting for more relaxing hobbies. These may include knitting, painting, photographing, journaling, or even bird watching. Whichever hobby you choose, be sure it makes you feel more relaxed.

Taking a break to do something you already love beats an extra hour spent at the office anyway. Listening to music can feel similar to taking a break and enjoying yourself and obviously breaks and joy often produce an improved mood. Listening to your favorite musician should always be something you desire doing. It also can help encourage socialization where you would otherwise spend time alone.

You may have heard that popular saying “get away from it all.” It’s not that you’re not running away from your problems, so much as you’re mindfully withdrawing yourself to seize the opportunity to remember what’s really important. This can be an amazing combatant against stress. Frequent traveling can help one handle stress more easily in life, primarily because it allows for a literal withdrawal of yourself from stressful situations and environments for a little while, giving one the time to decompress, gain some perspective, and re-center. “With a short list of activities each day, freed up from the complexities of ongoing projects and relationships, the mind can reset, as does the body, with stress relief the main outcome.”

Happiness is boosted even before you travel. The effects of travel aren’t felt only during and after your trip – in fact, even just the anticipation of going on vacation can boost your mood. People are at their happiest when they have a vacation planned. Accordingly, studies have shown that people are also more positive about their health, economic situation and general quality of life. People also get more happiness from anticipating a travel experience in comparison to anticipating buying a new possession. It turns out that money can buy you happiness, but just not in the way we expected!


Balanced diet:
You’ve probably heard the expression, “you are what you eat,” but what exactly does that mean? Put simply, food is fuel, and the kinds of foods and drinks you consume determine the types of nutrients in your system and impact how well your mind and body are able to function. This also helps reduce your stress level. Eating well (i.e. a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and nutrients) may be associated with feelings of wellbeing. Factors such as poorer physical health, and living in poverty, or deprived communities, have been found to be associated with poorer mental health and wellbeing.

Avoiding drug use:
Abusing drugs can wreak havoc with your cognition. It is said that when the mind suffers the body cries out, and there’s truth based in medical science. Problems with mental health can affect your physical health in adverse ways, and in some cases a chronic health condition can cause mental problems such as depression. Mental illnesses can manifest themselves in a variety of ways physically, as well as changing behavior (risk-taking and improper diet) that can impact overall health and lead to complications or a shortened lifespan.

Psychological treatment is sometimes called ‘psychotherapy’ or ‘talking therapy.’ And, it must be noted that not all people who offer psychological treatments have professional training or experience in that therapy. It is imperative when looking for a therapist to ask about their qualifications before the appointment. A therapist will deliberate about your thought to: better understand your own thinking and behavior; understand and resolve your problems; recognize symptoms of mental illness in yourself; reduce your symptoms; change your behavior and improve your quality of life. The psychological community believes psychological treatments work well for emotional, mental and behavioral issues. Psychological treatments are useful for people of all ages, including children. They can be effective for people from different cultural, social and language backgrounds.


Research published in 2016 in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine

 study published in 2016 in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues

Research published in 2016 in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine

 study published in 2016 in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues

P.Adepelumi, 2018 Psychological Consequences of the Boko Haram Insurgency for Nigerian Children

L Giardinelli, 2017 HPN


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