Mental Health Check: 5 myths about stress you need to stop believing right now

Stress can be defined as a common physiological and psychological response individuals may experience in challenging or threatening situations.
Mental Health Check: 5 myths about stress you need to stop believing right now

Hyderabad: Stress can be defined as a common physiological and psychological response individuals may experience in challenging or threatening situations.

It can manifest in various ways, such as feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities, deadlines, or even personal relationships.

In this article, we will dispel five incorrect yet popular notions about stress with inputs from Dr Charan Teja Koganti, consultant neuropsychiatrist.

How do we cope with our triggers?

Think about a recent time when you felt stressed: was it due to work, school, or some other major life aspect? Do you find solace in hobbies, exercise, or perhaps talking to someone close to you?

Understanding the sources of stress and discovering effective coping strategies is essential for maintaining mental well-being. Hence, social media is awash with tips and ‘life hacks’ from self-proclaimed mental health experts who promise to calm an anxious mind in no time. However, do they work?  

Here are five common myths about mental health that everyone needs to know.

Myth 1: Alcohol eases stress.

Fact: The myth that consuming alcoholic drinks can ease stress is misleading. While they may initially provide a sense of relaxation or relief, they can also lead to dependency and exacerbate stress over time. Seeking healthier coping mechanisms, such as exercise, mindfulness practices, or talking to a trusted friend or therapist, can offer more sustainable and beneficial ways to manage stress without the negative consequences associated with alcohol use.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that consuming drugs or alcohol while feeling stressed can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.

Myth 2: Only adults experience stress.

Fact: Stress isn’t limited to adults. It affects individuals of every age, from children to teenagers. Children may encounter stressors concerning school, family interactions, friendships, and personal hurdles. Likewise, teenagers frequently manage academic demands, peer connections, identity exploration, and uncertainties about the future. It’s essential to recognise and manage stress in young individuals to promote their emotional health and overall growth.

According to UNICEF, children might experience stress too resulting in symptoms such as

- Negative thoughts or feelings about themselves

- Changes in their bodies like the beginning of puberty

- Exams and more homework as they get older

- Problems with friends at school and socializing

- Big changes like moving homes, changing schools or separation of parents

- Chronic illness, financial problems in the family or the death of a loved one

- Physical or sexual abuse

For children with stress issues, the coping mechanisms are different. Talking to them with love, initiating positive conversation regularly, listening to the problems and spotting the triggers would help the child to cope with stressful situations.

Myth 3: Stress is a minor issue. It does not require medical attention.

Fact: Feelings of stress are often downplayed and overlooked as issues that don’t necessarily require medical attention. However, it’s important to recognise that the impact of stress can vary widely among individuals. While some people may be able to cope with everyday stressors effectively, others may experience more severe or persistent stress that significantly affects their well-being. Ignoring chronic or overwhelming stress can potentially lead to more serious health issues over time.

Myth 4: Stress and anxiety are the same.

Fact: Stress is a response to immediate pressures while anxiety is a persistent feeling of unease about future uncertainties. Stress is often temporary and can prompt action, while anxiety may linger without a specific trigger. Both can affect mental well-being and may require professional support to cope.

Myth 5: Stress is merely a feeling with no ramifications on physical well-being.

Fact: Chronic stress can lead to various health complications, including cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure and heart disease, weakened immune system function, digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and exacerbation of existing conditions like asthma or diabetes. Additionally, stress can contribute to unhealthy coping behaviours such as overeating, substance abuse, or lack of sleep, all of which can further impact physical health.

Here are some healthy habits to help deal with stress and anxiety.

According to the World Health Organisation, practising self-help techniques for coping with stress for a few minutes a day is enough to manage stress healthily.

Techniques to manage stress

Dr Charan advised people experiencing stress episodes to inculcate and practice these stress management techniques:

Mindfulness and Relaxation: Mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises calm the mind during stressful times. These practices can help center thoughts and ground perception. Also, opt for soothing music and create a positive channel for thoughts instead of smoking cigarettes or chugging alcohol.

Physical Activity: Incorporating physical activity into the daily routine works wonders. Exercise is a great way to release built-up tension and boost mood. Whether it is going for a run, hitting the gym, or practising yoga, any physical activity is bound to soothe the nerves.

Time Management: Managing your time effectively can alleviate stress. Daily techniques such as prioritising tasks, creating to-do lists and setting realistic deadlines can organise thoughts and keep the head clear.

Social Support: Talking to someone trustworthy about stressors can provide emotional support and fresh perspectives. Seek out medical help if needed.

Healthy Lifestyle/dietary Choices: Maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake can contribute to better stress management.

Reflecting on these strategies and sharing the experiences with others can contribute to a supportive community focused on all-around well-being.

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