In earlier part, we saw what stress is and how it affects our entire health system. Your responses made it clear, how close this subject is to each of our life. Essentially stress is a negative response to a situation faced. Since it is a response, it varies from person to person depending on the environment in which he/she grew and on his/her basic nature.

The purpose of the write up was to create awareness about stress on our health. How it affects basic functioning like digestion to critical issues like impact it has on our brains functioning. Having read dangerous impact, it has on our health, you might be wondering how; many of us are still able to live a relatively good life? I used to have the same question until I came across a ted-talk video on youtube by Dr Kelly Mcgonigal. She has also written a book called “The Upside of Stress”. I am sharing some of the thoughts from her book.

The best way to deal with stress is to change our mindset towards stress. Our current mindset is that stress is ugly, dangerous thing to have. When we view stress as harmful, our normal response is to avoid or get rid of stressful situation. We know by experience that the thing which we try to avoid or get rid of comes back to haunt us. Sometime people resort to alcohol or other addictions to get rid of stressful situation. Rather than having this mindset let us create a mindset that views stress as helpful. In such situation, we are more likely to accept the fact about stressful situation and plan strategy to deal with the source of stress. We may use it as an opportunity to grow. When we face difficulties head on rather than try to avoid it, we become better experienced to manage such difficulties.

In a survey, researchers computed index of national stress. Researchers surprisingly found that the higher a nation’s stress index, higher is the nation’s wellbeing, life expectancy and GDP. When it came to overall wellbeing, the happiest people in the poll were the ones with significant stress. In contrast, researcher reported that among individuals who appeared to be unhappy, having low levels of joy, there was absence of significant stress. Happy lives are not stress free and stress-free life doesn’t guarantee happiness. Even though we presume stress as harmful, it accompanies satisfaction with our lives. Another research showed that people with meaningful lives worry more and have more stress than people with less meaningful lives. Being stressed can be indicator of how engaged you are in activities and relationships that are meaningful. Research also shows that less stressful life doesn’t make people happy as they think it will. Most people predict, they would be happier if they were less busy, but the opposite turns out to be true. Major decrease in busyness may explain why retirement can increase risk of depression substantially. Lack of meaningful stress may even be bad for our health. This may explain why stress may not be as bad as it is made out to be.

Also think about any personal growth of ours. It is necessarily linked with stressful experience. That experience can be learning to drive two/four-wheeler or learning to swim or it can be public speaking. We learn, we grow with these stressful experiences. Similarly, any set back may be an opportunity to grow even though it may be very stressful.

Another mindset which aggravates stress situation that needs to be worked upon i.e. mindset of isolation. In this mindset, we feel that other people are happier, having easy time while we are struggling, feeling down. In this mindset people are likely to be more depressed, avoiding stressful experiences. They are less likely to tell others about their problems and so are less likely to receive any support. This makes them feel lonelier. Because suffering of others can be less visible to our eyes, we often look at the world and conclude that we alone are suffering. Modern forms of social communication contribute to this misconception. We find ourselves scrolling through happy photos, good news, positive milestones, upbeat posts from friends, wondering why our own life is more difficult, disappointing than theirs. This leads to greater sense of isolation and dissatisfaction. We need to increase awareness of other people’s problems and be more open about our own.

In contrast, people who believe suffering is part of everyone’s life are happier and more satisfied with their life. They are more open about their problems and are likely to receive support from others. Stress in-fact provokes people to get connected, share problems. This is result of Oxytocin, a neuro-hormone that is released as stress response. Elevated levels of oxytocin make you want to connect with others. It motivates social connection.

All above discussion shows how stress can be good for us. We have to accept this argument because we don’t have other choice. We can’t avoid stress in our life, so we need to find out how it can be beneficial for us. For that we need to change our mindset, which is most difficult part. For better management of stress, we need to change our response. How do we change it? It is like making changes in operating system of computer. In next part I will deal with science of how to deal with it.

I conclude with an example I found very appropriate about stress. You must have seen a violin; there are strings there which help produce sound. If those strings are loose, there will not be any music, while if those strings are too tight they are likely to break. Stress is like tension on those strings, needs perfect balance. Without stress life will be boring, like without music while extra pressure will damage our health. So, balance (samatvam) is what has been advised by great consultant Shri Krishna in his Bhagwad Gita. We have to spend our life in this game of balance. Isn’t it?

If anybody has experienced such stress and has faced it with positive response to it, please share it so that other readers will also get inspiration from you. In this way, we can spread happiness…

Eagerly waiting for your thoughts…

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