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In engineering, stress is defined as “pressure or tension exerted on a material object.”
Engineers use it to calculate the strength of materials so they can ensure that the equipment or structure can withstand varying levels of stress and make sure it will be safe for use.
When I was studying for a quiz about it back in college, it felt like I was the “material object” in the definition. But instead of physical pressure or tension, I was feeling pressure to pass the test.
We call it “Mental Stress,” and it’s the type of stress that we deal with on a regular basis.
From the “May Forever” traffic in EDSA, your kids running and breaking stuff around the house, an overdue report that your boss has been heckling you about, or the unpaid bills plastered all across your fridge’s door, all these can be sources of stress (and a few specks of gray hair, in my case).
What Is Stress?
In 1936, Dr. Hans Selye used the term “Stress” to define “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.”
The name itself was considered imprecise during his time, as Selye initially opted to label stress as both its own reason and result.
He later coined the term, “Stressor” to distinguish strain (the cause) from stress (the result).
Nowadays, the most common definition that people have of stress is “physical, mental, or emotional tension.”
Common Causes, Signs & Symptoms of Stress?
In Japan, the term “Karoshi” means “death from overwork.” And it’s not an uncommon occurrence in Japan. People are literally dying from too much stress from working.
Physical, mental, and emotional fatigue from work are common causes of stress for a lot of people. So are personal, health, financial, and family problems.
These are the types of chronic stressors that we endure as individuals daily.
Almost anything can be a source of stress. One person might find the endless barking of the neighbor’s dog as torture while the next person can be utterly oblivious to its sound.
A colleague might find your new boss irritating (and thus a source of stress) while you think the guy is OK.
These examples prove that what triggers stress varies from one person to another.
Moreover, a person’s response to the stressor (the thing/person/event/place that causes stress) can also differ from one person to the next.
So how do you know if a person is feeling stressed?
Stress can reveal itself in a variety of ways. The 3 main areas where stress rears its ugly head are:
Effects of Stress on the Body
“Grabe nakaka-stress, sumasakit ulo ko” is something you usually hear from a person dealing with stress.
Headaches and other body pains are common to people experiencing stress.
Some feel a tightening in the stomach, others feel fatigued, some feel their blood pressure rise, and others end up getting zero sleep from thinking about their stressors.
Effects of Stress in Behavior
Stress affects the way we decide and act on things. It affects how we behave as a person.
An exhausted father coming home from a busy workday might end up yelling at his son for playing with his food. A student cramming to review for her final exams gets angry with her roommate at the slightest noise.
Overeating after a breakup. Turning to alcohol to numb the pain and worries away.
Effects of Stress in Emotion
Stress is especially dangerous when it starts to creep in the way you feel about certain things.
It can make people feel anxious, angry, depressed, insecure, irritable, unable to focus, sad, and lonely.
10 Ways to Prevent & Relieve stress
So what can we do about stress? What are the different ways we can cope and keep it at bay?
Here are 10 practical tips for fighting stress so you can maintain a healthy mind and body.
1. Identify Your Stressors
“Triggered” is a word usually thrown around social media to mention a person getting affected or agitated about a specific issue. That topic/issue is the person’s stressor.
A stressor is the source of your stress. According to Dr. Karl Albrecht, it comes in 4 forms:
You feel stressed worrying about anything time-related.
For example, looming deadlines stress people on a scheduling tight rope. Getting stuck in traffic when you have a crucial meeting.
It’s usually the lack of time or being late that constitute time stress.
An overall feeling of dread or anxiety over the future. Doubting your ability to pass the board exams if you’re a law student is an example.
The expectant father on a financial bind, worrying about how and where to get the money to support his baby.
This type of stress can be about a specific event or spread out for an unknown period.
Happens when unexpected events occur. An accident, getting shamed in front of other people, failing to perform a critical task correctly and other similar circumstances are examples.
Life events like the death of a loved one, getting fired at work, getting yourself injured, and similar situations also bring about a great deal of stress.
You feel stress when you’re dealing with other people. Imagine an introvert tasked to man the front desk and handle inquiries from guests.
He feels sick because personal interactions trigger his encounter stress. It can also happen when you feel anxious about dealing with a certain person or group of people that you don’t like.
As G.I Joe’s tagline famously said: “Knowing is half the battle.”
When you identify your stressors, you start to be more conscious about what triggers them.
You can then figure out ways to either avoid them or lessen the chance of them happening. You can also develop special skills or apply specific methods that can help you deal with your stressors.
2. Take a Break
Stress can originate from a feeling of overwhelm. All the worrying and thinking is tiring and unhealthy to both mind and body.
Sometimes, the best answer is to simply take a break from it all.
If you’ve been stressed at work, take a much-needed vacation leave. If a friend is being an emotional vampire, spending less time with them will lift your spirits up. If the family’s monthly budget is an issue, spend some time figuring out ways you can earn extra income.
3. Connect With friends
It’s always fun hanging out with friends. And it’s especially helpful when you’re feeling down in the dumps.
Even a quick coffee date or a night out with your favorite people can help take your mind off your stressors. They’ll also give you advice on how to deal with your situation.
4. Get Some Exercise
When you exercise, the body releases chemicals called Endorphin.
They act as both sedative and analgesic and reduces feelings of pain and stress. Working out signals the brain to pump endorphins to keep up with the fatigue, a reason why we experience “Runner’s high,” a feeling of euphoria while running long distance.
It’s also considered the reason why people who work out feel good during an intense workout. This can help keep you feeling motivated and high in spirits so you’ll feel less stressed.
5. Eat Healthily
Eating the right type of food nourishes the body and helps maintain your energy levels throughout the day.
This enables you to reduce your dependence on caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, soda, etc.), which often cause your energy and mood levels to peak and crash.
Staying off high-sugar content food and caffeine also helps you feel more relaxed so you can sleep better at night and allow your body to recharge fully.
6. Use Time Management Techniques
Getting swamped with work and all sorts of to-dos will deflate your motivation gas tank and leave you feeling stressed.
The good news is that there are plenty of time hacks and techniques that can help you keep mountains of work (and stress) from piling up.
Making checklists, planning your week ahead, habit-stacking, utilizing the Eisenhower Matrix, theming your days, and more are just a few. This comprehensive guide on time management will show you 35 tips on how to effectively make use of your time.
7. Find Time for Fun and Relaxation
The old proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” teaches us that focusing too much on work has adverse side effects.
Aside from making people look like walking automatons, having no time to have fun and relax leads to all sorts of stress.
You should regularly block out dates in your calendar to make room for the occasional weekend quality time with the fam or friends.
8. Get More Sleep
Poor sleep is linked to depression. When you don’t have sufficient sleep, your ability to perform tasks and interact with people takes a hit.
Your concentration and focus dwindles, which could lead to errors in your work or even serious accidents.
Lack of sleep can be both the cause and reason for stress, which is why you should put in considerable effort to have plenty of it.
9. Accept Things You Can’t Change
Don’t feel stressed over things you don’t have complete control over. If it suddenly rains when you’re already late for work, go ahead and be annoyed, but don’t linger on that emotion.
You being angry at the skies won’t stop its downpour. If your boss drops a pile of work on your desk, give out a sigh, and start working.
The lesson here is this: Letting your emotions get the best of you will only stress you out. If something is out of your control, just let it pass.
Focus on the things you can affect. Perhaps just make sure to bring an umbrella next time. At work, accept that there will be highs and lows when it comes to workload.
Even better, commit to your job and feel thankful that you have one.
Gratitude is a powerful emotion that helps us to take control. Who knows, you’re boss might actually just be testing you to see if you have what it takes to get promoted.
10. Practice Mindfulness
You don’t have to sit down and do yoga to be more mindful. Even a simple exercise of walking or writing down your thoughts can help chip away at your stress.
When you’re mindful, you focus on the present. You don’t worry about the past or future, which are often considered stressors by most people.
Allow your mind and body to experience life at the moment, away from all your troubles.
How the World’s Top CEOs Deal With Stress, Burnout, and Anxiety
Anyone tasked with the job of keeping thousands of people employed and making sure the company stays afloat amidst all the challenges deserves high praise.
That level of stress is simply unimaginable.
Yet these leaders always find ways to push forward and stand as the company’s best example on how to conduct business. But it doesn’t mean they’re invincible.
It doesn’t mean they don’t get frustrated, don’t feel burned out, or don’t experience stress. They’re humans too, after all, just like you and me.
So how do the world’s top CEOs deal with all the stress?
Let’s take a look at 8 of the world’s most recognized names in the business and see how they manage and keep stress, burnout, and anxiety at bay.
#1. A Prayer of Healing – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook
Like a shaman invoking a secret spell, Mark Zuckerberg recites a prayer whenever he’s facing a serious problem or feeling stressed.
Called “Mi Shebeirach” it’s an old Jewish prayer for healing. It goes, ‘May the source of strength who blessed the ones before us help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing, I hope you find the courage to make your life a blessing.” He shares he says the same prayer when he’s sending his daughter to sleep.
#2. Take the First Step – Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
Amazon’s CEO believes that stress primarily comes from not taking action over something that you can have some control over.
If there’s a particular thing that stresses him, it means he hasn’t yet identified the next action needed to fix it.
For Bezos, to manage stress means identifying what the next step of action is and simply executing it.
#3. Love What You Do – Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla
Many people consider him the “real world Iron Man” for taking steps in revolutionizing how humans travel (Hyperloop) and colonizing Mars.
The billionaire admitted once on Twitter that building a company comes with “great highs, terrible lows, and unrelenting stress”.
To cope, Musk firmly believes that you simply have to go through the challenges and pain “and make sure you really care about what you’re doing”.
That love for your work and what it stands for is the most important thing that will help you push through moments of great adversity.
And similar to Bezos’ answer, Musk is always looking for the “critical path” that’s causing problems.
Once identified, he will do everything he can to address it so the project can move forward.
#4. Read a Book – Mark Cuban, Owner of the Dallas Mavericks, CEO of AXS TV
Mark Cuban is an avid reader. Aside from learning about a bunch of new things, he finds it as an excellent way to relax and keep stress away.
In today’s age of social media and the internet, reading books is like a quick island getaway from the hustle and bustle of Facebook notifications and Instagram posts.
Even the world’s most admired investor, Warren Buffet, shares this as his secret to his success.
#5. Go to the Bathroom (Or Another Quiet Place) – Oprah Winfrey, CEO of HARPO Entertainment
Once recognized as the world’s most popular talk show host, Oprah is now a multi-billionaire media mogul.
In her book, “What I Know for Sure”, she shares that her method of dealing with stress is going to a quiet place. “A bathroom cubicle works wonders. I close my eyes, turn inward, and breathe.”
#6. Get Some Sleep – Arriana Huffington – Founder of The Huffington Post and CEO of Thrive Global
After collapsing due to severe exhaustion which cut her eye and broke her cheekbone in 2007, Arriana was diagnosed with an acute case of burnout. After the incident, she realized how important sleep and rest is to the body.
This breakthrough lead her to writing best-selling books, Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. It also opened up the gates for launching her company, Thrive Global.
#7 Take a Walk – Jack Dorsey – CEO of Square, Co-founder of Twitter
The Twitter co-founder schedules time within his busy work day to take a stroll and meditate.
He wakes up extra early (around 5:30AM) to meditate. Instead of reaching for his phone during breaks like most people do, he leaves the office to walk outside as a way to recharge.
For time management, he’s also a big fan of batching/theming his days to perform certain tasks.
For example, Mondays are for meetings, Tuesdays for product development, Wednesdays for networking, and so on. He says it keeps things simple and easy to remember.
#8. Relax With Music – Warren Buffet – CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
Once hailed as the world’s richest man, Buffet spends most of his days reading.
When he needs to recharge, he plays two things close to his heart: The game of bridge and the ukelele. He even played the instrument on live TV once.
Use the Right Approach When Dealing With Stress
Experiencing all kinds of stress is part of everyday life. The key is to be aware that we are experiencing it and identify what triggers it.
Next, apply one or a combination of the tips mentioned above based on your preference.
With diligence, you would be able to reduce the amount of stress you’re experiencing and keep a healthy, happy mind and body.