Smile, breathe, and go slowly.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Our modern times can be described as the ‘age of anxiety’. We forget to ‘breathe and slow down’ as Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh advises. The pace of our daily lives has become more intense and we are spoilt for choice. As we pack a lot into each day it is not surprising that the outcome is anxiety, tension, stress and depression. Psychological research shows that in many cases, more choices lead to more anxiety. Sadly, fragmentation of the family as a unit has reduced the availability of stable, secure and predictable support mechanisms for young people.
We have read about how we need a dose of some stress to motivate us each day to achieve what we have set out to do. This is termed as good stress or ‘eustress’. There is also distress, which is the unhealthy stress that we need to keep in check.
Triggers of Stress
Information overload: With constant Internet on smartphones, regular beeps or burrs can affect our mood and make us feel sad, elated, worried or confused. We are tempted to constantly check our social media groups or inboxes for new messages. These are termed ‘time-stealers’ as they distract us from pending work. With the advent of selfies enabled by devices, I read about an epidemic of narcissism among youth, characterised by assertiveness, over-confidence and a sense of entitlement. This has them experiencing an underlying lack of coping skills and empathy to fellow beings.
Money worries: More and more students have to fund their education, especially for colleges and tuitions, and may need to work to support themselves. Thoughts of clearing debts in future and worsening job prospects can add to woes. Piling up of assignments, managing relationships (friends to keep up with), feeling homesick and adjusting to new food and local culture can elevate stress. Failure to meet expectations of family and friends can lower one’s self-esteem.
Often stress shows up in both physical and psychological ways e.g. disturbed sleep, changes in eating habits (eating too much or not feeling hungry), feeling tense and panicking (racing heart beat, clammy palms, sweating, trembling hands), difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness and irritability.
During times of stress we are likely to fall sick easily (catch colds and coughs).
Feeling low, crying easily and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness about life and future in general are symptoms of depression.
Improve time management: Cut down too many extra-curricular activities. Make a list of what is most important, prioritise tasks and set timelines.
Let off steam: Talk to your friends, family or counsellors about your feelings. Like a pressure cooker, it’s good to let it out rather than build it up and cause an explosion
Self-care: Eat a healthy diet. Practise yoga and meditation, play regular sports or just go for a long relaxing walk.
Avoid the use of tobacco and alcohol, as they can negatively impact your mood.
Treat yourself to screen-free time daily by abandoning your electronic devices and gadgets.