COPING WITH STRESS. BY ANNE MARETE.Year 2012 is finally here. You gladly bid 2011 goodbye because it was a very difficultyear, especially for the downtrodden masses. What with the high price of basicconsumer goods petrol and other necessities of life. Yet our salaries or is it wages?Remain the same .I do not mean to sound pessimistic knowing that one of your New Year resolutions is tolook at the bright side of life—always.January as I said is here and now you are experiencing the usual January blues or stressbecause you are now faced with huge bills accrued over December, fees that has to be orhas been paid. Also, don’t forget that save for the dates that have changed, the highcost of living has not. Your salary too, stubbornly remains the same and to add in salt toinjury, we are further faced with the uncertainty of 2012 elections since not much hasbeen done to heal the Nation.IDPs are still languishing in poverty all over the country.you wonder whether the politicians will conduct election campaigns in a civil manner,whether the different mass media will remain free and fair or whether they will be thepoliticians’ tools of war, propaganda and incitement as they were in 2007.What, youwonder, will happen when elections have been announced and the candidates, whomthe ‘impartial’ opinion polls predicted was heading for victory does not go through?In short, we are a Nation of stressed out people. Back to our brand new year. You nowfeel sick, yet you cannot place exactly where you are unwell .You feel like your Wholebody is a bomb, just waiting to explode .Recent statistics suggest that as much as 70 percent of all visits to doctors involveconditions that are stressed related or are made worse by stress. Stress is literallymaking us sick. It is however, not contradictory to say that a little bit of stress can begood for you, as it makes one alert and able to concentrate effectively and perform tohigh standards. However, if it gets too much your body begins to slow down andunpleasant side effects begin to manifest.Some of the effects of stress include problems going to sleep and dealing with emotions.You feel very irritable or you may feel tearful .Then there are the physical problems
such as heart problems, Depression and other mental disorders. Have you noticed anincrease in the number of people who monologue on the streets? They are stressed.Dr Hans Seyle (1970) described what has become known as General Adaptive Responseto stress. He argued that there are three stages of stress :The first is the Alarm stage, which is the body’s initial response to stress.The body initiates a fight or flight mechanism to try and wade off stress.The second stage is the Resistance stage where the stressor has been around forsometime and the body is adapting to its presence .Long term changes start to occur in the body to deal with the load added by the stressor.At this point however, your body begins to physically feel worn out and a range of othersymptoms that appear mild when examined separately , also appear. They includemuscle tension, especially in the upper back ,chest and jaws. There may be an increasein headaches, skin complications , bowel problems due to lowered absorption, as well asunexplained fatigue.The third stage is the Exhaustion stage where the body recognises that it is no longerable to deal with the continuing demands placed on it by the stressor or by a number ofstressors .Resistance to stress and disease is severely reduced.At this stage you may be experiencing a number of more severe symptoms such aslowered libido and impotence high blood pressure, heart problems as well as becomingmore accident prone. Your body is now screaming, telling you that it is time to takeaction to reduce stress. Is there a way out of this abyss, you may ask? Yes there is.Recognising that a problem exists is half the battle won. The other half is committing tomaking changes in the way you do things so that you are able to relax.It is good to mention at this stage that before you try each and every suggestionremember that you and your circumstances are special and unique .Taking upexpensive hobbies is not going to help you relax if the main reason that you are understress is because of severe financial burden.Use several small steps that can be integrated into your existing life. These steps shouldnot be over ambitious so that they can be effective and easy to stick to.First, you need to reduce stress by avoiding the source–if you can or take significantaction to change how it affects you.If is a workmate who is the source of the stress for instance you can try and avoid themas much as possible avoiding all confrontations with them.If finances are the reason you are stressed ,find a way of dealing with it. For instance,you can cut down on unnecessary expenditure. Why for example should you strain tobuy clothes for Christmas for the family when you can hardly put a decent meal on thetable? To save face? so that neighbours don’t talk?
The other way to deal with stress would be to find an outlet for frustrations. Don’t bottleit up. Instead find a harmless way of releasing your tension. Physical exercise doeswonders. You can also find a trusted friend whom you can talk to. A problem shared,they say, is half solved.The third way to combat stress is to enhance your sense of control. This can be done bydeveloping security or predictability in other aspects of your life.Why would anyone in their right frame of mind, use so much money over a festiveseason, then shortly after feel insecure and stressed out since they have no money touse for the most important areas of life? Then you start going into debts, which thenincrease your level of stress. Aren’t most of us caught up in this miserable cycle?Then, learn to relax. How, you ask? You can for instance learn taking in deep breaths, asit allows your lungs to fully inflate, which means you will get more energy to your brainand body whilst calming the mind.Create a haven .This is a space where you feel totally comfortable and secure. This canbe done for instance by selecting calm colours for your house. Lighter, softer, coloursand pastels are deemed to be more relaxing than strong vibrant colours .In addition, youcan use sound to change the atmosphere. Soft and classical music would be ideal. Haveyou thought of plants or other aspects of nature? Reduce or get rid of any clutter and use comfortable furnishing as well as airing theroom properly. Fragrances are an added advantage. Ensure you have some breathingspace or some ‘me’ time. This can be done by delegating work. Reward yourself bytreating yourself to something you would like to do or have. You can for instance treatyourself to dinner with your partner or friends, go for a body massage, treat yourself toa hair do, facial, manicure and pedicure or simply have a quite time alone to meditatewithout letting anyone put anything in that time- You have worked for the time off ,earned it, and now you need to enjoy it without allowing yourself to feel guilty. Do notcarry out any chore during this time. This will leave you relaxed , refreshed and betterable to deal with existing problems.Natural remedies are also good stress relievers. Good examples include coriander,chamomile, ginger, grape fruit and lemon. To reduce stress we have to check what weeat. Reduce caffeine, sugar laden foods, over refined foods, tea and alcohol and insteadincrease water intake, and vitamin rich foods, it’s also important to develop a strongsupport network. Identify those whom you can turn to for help. Enhance yourrelationships by creating good bonds with those willing to help and cut out or limitcontact the ‘dead wood ‘- those you associate with and are not relaxing to be around.Lastly, re-examine your expectations .In John Ruganda’s play The Burdens, one of hischaracters (Tinka) tells her over ambitious husband Wamala that“Too much ambition breaks a man”He replies that “Too little takes him nowhere”
We therefore need to find a balance, avoiding the extreme of too much ambition or toolittle. Either of the two roads, taken to the extreme ,leads to stress .Let us have a stress free 2012.