The S-Factor

If figures are to be believed, indian women continue to be among the most stressed in the world. stress for the urban indian woman very often emanates from unnecessary expectations on them requiring them to be superwomen at all times. Stop before it's too late! promise yourself to stay as far away from stress as possible. Aruna Rathod lists the triggers to watch out for.

Are you having sleepless nights, hair loss and indigestion a bit too often? You have taken every possible test, the results of which have been more than satisfactory, and hence wondered often if things are fine on the surface, what could perhaps be behind these? Well, it could simply be stress, that is going unnoticed. While acute stress evokes physical and emotional responses like the Flight or Flight response, long-term stress leads to mental and physical health issues. For instance, repeated stomach aches happen when the brain’s nervous system is linked to the gut’s, so mental stress can wreak havoc on your GI tract. So it’s better to keep a close watch on the signs.

Twitching eyelids

Muscle spasms typically occur around one eye and last for a few minutes. Stress is one of their most common causes, though doctors aren’t quite sure why. It’s a sign for you to relax. Stop what you are doing and inhale slowly and exhale even more slowly.

Back pain

The hormones your body pumps out when you’re stressed produce a Fight-or-Flight response, which—along with raising your blood pressure and heart rate—tightens up your muscles. Stand up every hour and do some stretches, such as reaching your arms over your head, bending a bit, and rolling your neck and shoulders. Also, try to get in a 10- to 15-minute walk around the office or outside once or twice a day.

Relax, don’t over stretch yourself; be like a loose rubber band

Dr Zubin Mandlewala, Head Dermatologist, Reflectionz Clinic, Mumbai, explains, “Stress can be explained with the help of a rubber band. When one holds an elastic rubber band between both thumbs and when the band is left slack, it is symbolic of people being in a restful state such as sleep. When the band is pulled out to a comfortable stretch, it is comparable to people having a regular working/functioning day before returning to a relaxed state. However, when the elastic band is pulled out to an overstretched position then it is a warning to the individual to take note and get back to a comfortable position.
“Like the elastic rubber band, every individual is equipped to get back to the comfortable state provided the effort of will exists. The amount of stress we wish to take in, is in our hands as is the amount we wish to neglect.”
Stress can short-circuit your immune system, causing dormant skin issues to act up. Stress can be an important external indicator of internal health. The skin and hair are generally referred to as mirror images of internal body system functioning and are often the first indicator/sign of disease activity originating from within.

Effects of stress on the skin

When one is stressed, our body releases a hormone known as cortisol. The long-term activation of the stress-response system—and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones —can disrupt almost all body processes. This puts an individual at increased risk of numerous health problems, including: anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment.

Effects of stress on the hair

• Greying of hair is very common due to our stressful lifestyle and nutrient-poor food individuals consume these days. Usually topical solutions and B-complex vitamins/biotin based tablets may be prescribed for
the same.
• Stress is a very well-known aggravating factor in a condition known as alopecia areata. In this condition, there are circular circumscribed patches of hair loss commonly on the scalp or beard areas.

Tackle the stress factor

Once you figure out what triggers stress, it can help anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them. Even if you can’t avoid these situations, being prepared can help.
Take some time to reflect on events and feelings that could be contributing to your stress
(you might want to do this with a friend or family member).
You could consider:
• Issues that come up regularly, and that you worry about, for example, paying a bill or attending an appointment, or even your children’s results in exams.
• One-off events that are on your mind a lot, such as moving house or taking an exam
• Ongoing stressful events – managing a job and home, new boss, new locations or transfers, nagging in-laws.

We don’t realise it, but we are coping with a lot at once. But not having enough work, activities or changes in life can be just as stressful a situation as having too much to deal with.

Organise your time

Make some adjustments to help you feel more in control of tasks.
• Identify your best time of the day, and do the important tasks that need the most energy and concentration at that time.
• Make a list of things you have to do. Arrange them in order of importance, and try to focus on the most urgent first. If your tasks are work related, ask a manager or colleague to help you prioritise.
• Vary your activities. Balance interesting tasks with more mundane ones, and stressful tasks with those you find easier or can do more calmly.
• Try not to do too much at once.
• Take breaks and take things slowly. It might be difficult to do this when you're stressed, but it can make you more productive.
Mantra: I will try and break down tasks as per the priority and make them achievable

Yoga to beat stress

Yoga directly counteracts both the physiological and psychological components of stress simultaneously, helping you take better care of yourself and change your attitude. Yoga practitioner Sabir Shaikh explains, “Stretches in yoga relieve muscle tension. Upside-down poses and reclining poses slow the heart, relax the blood vessels, inhibit production of norepinephrine, and calm the brain. Pranayama slows respiration, while meditation and the teachings of yoga philosophy can help you realize that most of the things that upset you just aren't worth getting stressed about.”

Practical ways to deal with stress

  1. Change your situation—move out, find a new job and a new place. Simple distancing helps at times.
  2. Change your attitude—look at things differently. When you realise you can choose how you react, many events you formerly found stressful may lose their power to push your buttons.
  3. Take good care of yourself–eat right, exercise, rest, planning, meet the right people.

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