Stress is essential to life, without stress there would be no life. There are two parts to stress: the dreaded distress, that wrecks havoc on the body and eustress, the beneficial part of stress that makes life worth living. Unfortunately, life cannot always be filled with eustress; there must be a balance. Coping during the stressful times is what gets us through. There are many different ways each and every one of us handle our stressors as well as how we perceive stress. The individualistic perception of stress can be attributed to one’s personality: do you have a positive or negative affect? Or would you consider yourself an optimist or pessimist? Individual’s view of stress is also based on their spiritual beliefs and if they have a belief in a just world. Being able to believe that “everything happens for a reason” or “what comes around goes around” makes the hard times manageable because people can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
If I have learned anything about staying healthy it is that you have to manage your relationship with stress. My personal stress management technique is engaging in physical activity. However, others have experienced the benefits of meditation and yoga to find their peace of mind. We know that fitness has physical benefits, but we neglect to talk about how important it is for our psychological well being as well. Exercise is mood boosting; it improves self-esteem, it creates a sense of self-worth, it develops self-efficacy, and is a distraction from anxiety and depression. Additionally being able to tolerate the stress of exercise allows for individuals to tolerate more stressors from everyday life. Just like with resistance training, we must get stronger before adding more weight, to better handle stress we must build up our tolerance even though our perception of stress may not be changing.
Perceptions of life and stressors are individualized by one’s level of optimism. Pessimistic people are known for emotional-based coping, they typically engage in denial and distancing, and tend to ruminate on their stressful and stress-related feelings. On the other hand optimistic people engage in problem-focused coping in addition to being more willing to seek social support and to engage in adaptive coping responses. Social support can be seen as family or friends being there to support each other or it can be seen through spirituality and religion. Having faith in a higher being creates social support through a church community in addition to having a relationship with God.
Christians find their social support through their walk with Christ. A part of cultivating that relationship is living a life of prayer. You do not have to be a Christian to live a prayerful life. Praying is a coping mechanism because it is comforting by taking the ambiguity of the world and one’s anxieties and giving it to the universe or to your God. Having the locus of control be within the power of a higher being such as God allows us to feel like someone is looking out for us and that there is a greater reason for the stress in our lives. This contributes to the philosophy and belief in a just world. By being able to believe that everything happens for a reason and that there will be good times to make up the bad makings coping with stressors more understandable and even more bearable. Because dealing with stress and not understanding why something is happening to you make that situation all the more stressful.
So let me leave you with this, my three most important attributes to managing stress that will continue to need to be addressed by the field of health promotion include tending to your mind, body, and spirit. Health promotion would not be as successful as it is without its bio-psycho-social approach to health. However, that model neglects to mention the role of spiritual health in living a stress-balanced life. By minding our spiritual health we are able to tap into so many stress-reducing mechanism such as: meditation through prayer, charity and giving to others, and forgiveness. Living a spiritual life means living a healthy life. But I would be negligent to say that is all you need—even though it has been my secret to success at reducing stress. Remember the importance of exercise and engaging in physical activity. I know life gets busy and that exercise is usually what gets put on the back burner; to that I say don’t. Make your fitness a priority and all the other areas in your life will thrive. A strong body makes for a strong mind. Lastly, remember to take care of your mind because we only have one brain. Take time for journaling, take time for yoga and meditation, those mindful practices may feel silly in the moment or feel unnecessary if you are feeling well, but be preventative and practice now to keep your mind well during the times of stress.
Article Written By Staff Member: Kaitlyn