Jamaicans are not immune to stress. Often times, we may exhibit this “no problem” attitude, but the stress of our personal life and the environment we live in can have its toll on our psychological well-being. Although stress has become synonymous with a bad experience – maybe a twenty minute wait in traffic jam, an overly crowded bus, family demands – some stress can be good for you. The “good” stress can energize you to meet new challenges and motivate you to solve problems. But what exactly is stress?
What is Stress?
Stress is what happens to the body and mind in response to outside demands or events. Stress is basically the “wear and tear” of everyday life. Stress can be the feeling you get when you are preparing a holiday meal, first day of school, managing a busy workload and personal life at the same time, or working two jobs.
Stress affects people differently, but the following physical and emotional symptoms are common among most people with stress:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Neck or back pain
- Muscle tension
- Mood swings
- Stomach pain
I Have Stress….How Can I Manage It?
The best way to manage stress is to tackle it head on. If you are working too hard, then try and reduce your workload if possible. Consider quitting one of your two jobs, ask for help from other family members around the home, and do not take on more than you can handle. For stress that cannot be managed in such a manner, there are a few techniques that have been shown to be very helpful in reducing stress. They include :
- Exercise. Physical activity is one of the most effective stress remedies. Most types of exercise will work, but yoga, pilates, and active walking are especially good at reducing stress. Exercising also offers the added bonus of controlling weight, depression and other health conditions.
- Relaxation. You might want to try meditation, deep breathing, massage or just sitting in a quiet place for a few minutes. Try repeating a phrase (Ohm) or a prayer that is calming over and over to yourself in a serene and restful atmosphere.
- Expression. Keeping a journal or diary can be a meaningful way to help manage your stress. Doing an art project or playing a musical instrument may also be helpful.
- Therapy. Although the Caribbean culture may shy away from therapy, speaking to a professional can help you (1) find ways to cope with stressful conditions, (2) help in handling conflicts or communicate better which can help to reduce stress and (3) provide additional ways to resolve problems that are causing the stress.
What else can you do?
- Get enough rest and sleep.
- Take it easy on yourself. Don’t try to be perfect.
- Don’t try to do too much.
- Manage your time effectively – Do the essential tasks first and prioritize others.
- Watch your diet. Alcohol, sugar, fats, and caffeine can affect your body’s ability to cope with stress. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and protein is recommended.
What if it’s more than just stress.
There may be times when it’s more than stress. It may be Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or Acute Stress Disorder. A mental health provider can provide the best diagnosis.