What exactly is stress?
Wikipedia defines stress as mental strain experienced by a person, usually in response to external pressure caused by specific events or situations. Small amounts of stress may yield positive results (e.g. motivation towards athletic training deadline) but excessive amounts can negatively affect the physical and mental health of the individual.
Forget about Wikipedia, how does stress feel to you? What do you perceive stress as?
Doesn’t stress feel like black bile? Like this storm that’s rushing through you and making you boil and seethe and moan in agony? Like a hurricane that refuses to abate, but makes demons dance in the seas of your consciousness?
Imagine you flunked a test. Or your crush rejected you. Or your friends are angry at you for something you did. Or your parents are frustrated with you.
You feel incensed at the world, you feel like everyone is being unfair just to you – that you just cannot keep up with the pace of life.
Frustration starts looming large over you, you wonder about your sense of worth – whether you really are worth anything. Your confidence and self-esteem takes a beating, and you no longer believe yourself as capable of anything.
And what’s more, fear starts setting in. The demon of demons, the one single hindrance in your path towards achieving anything – the fear of losing, of letting go. This fear chokes your throat and refuses to let you survive. This fear will consume and destroy.
One of the biggest sources of stress in academia (undergrad, grad school and beyond) is that the stress and insecurity of the competitive environment isolates you from those around you. In nearly all of these cases, the people who can best help you are friends, colleagues, family, who can help ground you by giving you a sense of perspective. They can remind you that no single one thing matters as much as you think it does, and that life in academia as life in general, is a journey, not a race.
How to De-Stress?
So how do we get out of this? How do we throw stress out of our lives for good?
Stress is poison, a toxin rushing through our bloodstream and wreaking havoc in our lives. Hence it becomes more imperative than ever to flush out this toxin from our bodies and detox and be happy.
Now how to do that?
Easiest ways to relieve mental stress is listening to birds, keeping your feet in warm water, having a nap, sitting under the sky, slow deep breathing and closing your eyes for some time.
I’d like to recommend exercise. Although it’s one more time expenditure, it’s been very helpful in keeping my stress in check. If you can make it part of your daily routine, it’ll feel less like one more thing you have to do and more like a natural feature of life. It will likely yield benefits in your quality of sleep, clarity of thinking, self-esteem, and overall health (in the short-term and in the long-term). Hit the gym!
What really works for me is to surrender to the natural interfaces we have with the world as animals: exercise regularly, cook your own meals and enjoy them, get a good sleep, talk to colleagues about your angst… and just accept reality as a flow you control some part of. Maybe we are, at our best, more like dancing through life challenges than battling them.
Do remember a very important fact: everything you do relies on you to be psychophysically healthy – so if you notice lots of stress do not just ignore it and then risk your health. There are infinite ways to live a satisfying and happy life without the poison of stress within us.
I’d also recommend watching some amazing videos and maybe taking up poetry. Poetry has the ability of healing souls like no other. Try it out, and see the magic for yourself!
So finally, stress is a blockade, a hindrance to your path. Get it out of your way, don’t let it affect you and step on and move ahead, the world is an oyster under your feet!