Stress can be defined as our response to events which disrupt or are a threat to our physical or psychological well-being. Stress is a part of life and anyone can be subjected to it. Events or situations that cause stress are known as stressors. Stressors can be physiological, psychological or psychosocial. Physiological stressors are those events or stimuli which are present in the physical environment such as noise, cold, heat and hunger. Psychological stressors are those events which cause an emotional response, such as loss of a loved one or occupational stress. Psychosocial stressors are factors that are a threat to one's social status, self-esteem or respect.
Occupational stress is a type of psychological stress which deals with work-related pressures - such as overload of work, underload of work conflicts at the workplace, performance evaluation, lack of recognition and loss of job or unemployment. Unemployment is a very significant cause of stress today. Apart from causing financial issues, it also has adverse effects on one's mental health and emotional well-being, can take a toll on the mood, can strain relationships and can get to a point where it is so overwhelming, ultimately resulting in anxiety or depression related conditions (Rafi et al., 2019).
Since unemployment is not an uncommon stressor and can happen to anyone, it is important to remember certain strategies that might help in dealing with it. These include meditating, getting involved in physical activities such as exercise and sports, picking up a new skill or hobby such as cooking or gardening, listening to music, spending time with loved ones and reaching out for help, whether personal or professional (when necessary).
Concerning the above-mentioned strategies, three effective tools of stress management are - meditation apps and resources such as Headspace, online counselling apps for therapy and fitness-related classes with online resources for home workouts.
Unemployment or loss of a job is a common source of stress for working professionals everywhere. The physical and psychological implications of unemployment are similar to any kind of loss, such as loss of a loved one (bereavement). Unemployed individuals have higher chances of impaired mental states, succumbing to conditions like depression and anxiety. In addition to this, they may also suffer from physiological issues such as hypertension and cardiovascular-related diseases. When faced with an unpleasant event like unemployment, it is important to keep in mind that the situation is temporary. One must not lose sight of this fact as doing so would push someone into depression. Instead of viewing it as a loss, one can use this time to perfect skills and hobbies which one was previously interested in, but never found the time to pursue due to having a full-time job. Some of these skills and hobbies can be converted into mechanisms to keep stress at bay. These include meditation, exercise and sports and talking to mental health experts by reaching out to them through various platforms – either in a traditional setting or virtually.
Meditation is a very effective strategy to combat stress. Over the years meditation as a stress managing tool has gained a lot of popularity. It has been observed that meditators produce lower levels of cortisol, have a lower heart rate, low blood pressure (all the physiological mechanisms associated with stress) and increased antibody as compared to nonmeditators (Househam et al., 2017). This shows how through stress takes a toll on one’s immune system, meditation helps in strengthening it. The tool to be discussed is online meditating applications such as Headspace and Calm. Headspace is an application I came across through a sponsored ad on a social media platform. Since I was experiencing acute stress due to loss of a job, I decided to give it a go. I would use it in the morning before starting my day and once before going to bed. Since they have guided meditation recordings for different durations, I would adjust my time depending on how much stress I was experiencing. If I was experiencing minimal stress, I would meditate for around ten minutes. The time duration would be more for the days I was feeling too overwhelmed. It is extremely easy to use and it somewhat helped me keep stress levels in control. I have benefitted from it, in the sense, it has made me feel calmer. It has become like a quick fix solution to focus on my breathing or listen to a guided meditation recording to feel grounded and calm. I would recommend it to others. It is a quick and useful solution, helps manage stress levels and based on your usage, you are sent reminders every day to meditate and your progress is tracked. Meditation apps like Headspace and Calm have been effective in reducing stress and improving mindfulness in the short term (Huberty et al., 2019). Also, it has been found that app-based mindfulness training reduces factors associated with work stress (Bostock et al., 2019).
Getting involved in physical activities, such as sports and exercise is another effective way to deal with stress. Adaptive coping mechanisms such as exercising are more effective in stress management than maladaptive coping strategies (Holton, Barry & Chaney, 2016). Physical activities are helpful when it comes to dealing with fatigue, help increase alertness and enhance one’s overall cognitive functioning. Working out has been associated with the production of endorphins – also known as the “feel-good hormones” – which improves sleep quality and reduces stress. Physical exercise increases feelings of wellbeing keep job stress to a minimum and prevents burnout (Heuse, Gekeler & Fodor, 2020). A lot of people are not motivated to go to the gym and I am one of them. Hence, I resorted to online workout programs and applications, which is the second tool for stress management that I will be focusing on. The application I have been using is called SWEAT and it was recommended to me by a friend who is a fitness freak. I try to work out almost every day and, on average, manage to exercise 5 times a week. It is extremely useful as I get to choose from a variety of different workouts and tracking my progress keeps me motivated. It is easy to use and I have benefitted immensely from the app. From getting reminders to customised workouts according to my preference, it has helped me stay in shape and keep stress to a minimum. Also, with home workouts, I can participate according to my convenience and time preference. The first step to a healthy mind is a healthy body and by being physically active, I have been experiencing a better mood, have been distracted from the fact that I am not employed and have been able to control my stress levels. I would recommend it to everyone who wants to start focusing on their health and either want to be serious about fitness or indulge as a hobby.
Finally, reaching out for professional help is not only an important but essential strategy to manage stress. Talking about the problems that are bothering you, especially with someone who is actively listening, helps relieve stress and feel lighter. Working with a mental health professional helps one gain more insight and perspective into the problem. Professionals provide support as well can effective strategies that are tailor-made for each person. Different kinds of therapies and counselling strategies exist according to the problem at hand. For instance, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) helps deal with stress by addressing and changing negative thought patterns. It also helps bring bout a change in perception and more clarity into the causes of stress. This information can then be used to deal with stress. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has been proved to be efficient in stress management and improving psychological variables (Santos-Ruiz et al., 2017). Keeping catastrophic thinking under control, using positive self-talk and affirmations are just some of the ways mental health practitioners use in successful stress management.
Since a lot of individuals find visiting a therapist daunting (myself included), a family member suggested I use an online platform called Better Help to approach mental health experts and make an appointment for myself. I took them up on their advice and decided to give therapy a shot since I am familiar with its benefits. Coming to the tool, I have been signing up for therapy sessions once a week. I think talking about my thoughts and things that are bothering me concerning my job every week is a good way to unload all of the negative feelings. The medium is easy to use, user friendly and accessible. I always get prompt responses from my therapist and customer support. It has benefitted me a lot. By unloading my negative feelings to someone has helped me maintain peace. To have an expert not only listen and support me but also provide fresh perspectives to my thoughts and through this, come up with daily goals and strategies for me to follow has contributed to my overall wellbeing. The goal is to remind me that this is just a temporary phase, my stress is situational and I want to limit it to that. I do not want to give in to y negative thought patterns and develop anxiety or depression-related symptoms. Thanks to therapy I can meet my objective. Online based therapy has been successful in dealing with stress and has shown significant improvement in stress levels, burnout and mental health (Barrett & Stewart, 2020).
Stress is one of the most common factors for physical and psychological distress. There are different types of stress, a common one being occupational stress. Occupational stress can be related to work overload, negative performance appraisal and loss of job or unemployment. Unemployment is a situational stressor, meaning with a positive change in the situation, the stressor will disappear. This makes it temporary and a person undergoing unemployment stress must understand that. To maintain emotional and mental wellbeing, there are various ways which one can employ to keep stress levels under control. Some of these ways are meditating, indulging in fitness training and workouts and reaching out to mental health professionals to touch base with one’s thoughts and feelings. The three tools highlighted above were – a meditating application, online therapy and exercise and workout applications. All of the three tools that have been employed have benefitted the user in varying degrees. Out of these, online therapy worked the most for me, followed by physical activities and daily meditation. Stress management strategies work when a person is well informed about the different avenues available and the ease inaccessibility. Since all of the tools that have been highlighted are easily accessible, I would recommend them to others who are battling with stress. Stress is a common and inevitable part of life. Instead of ignoring it and not talking about it, we should embrace it and adopt efficient strategies to deal with it before the situation gets out of hand.
Barrett, K., & Stewart, I. (2020). A preliminary comparison of the efficacy of online Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) stress management interventions for social and healthcare workers. Health & Social Care in the Community. https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.13074
Bostock, S., Crosswell, A. D., Prather, A. A., & Steptoe, A. (2019). Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 24(1), 127–138. https://doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000118
Heuse, S., Gekeler, B., & Fodor, D. (2020). The role of physical exercise as a personal resource against job stress. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1080/10803548.2020.1732648
Holton, M. K., Barry, A. E., & Chaney, J. D. (2016). Employee stress management: An examination of adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies on employee health. Work, 53(2), 299–305. https://doi.org/10.3233/wor-152145
Househam, A. M., Peterson, C. T., Mills, P. J., & Chopra, D. (2017). The effects of stress and meditation on the immune system, human microbiota, and epigenetics. Adv Mind Body Med, 31(4), 10–25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29306937/
Huberty, J., Green, J., Glissmann, C., Larkey, L., Puzia, M., & Lee, C. (2019). Efficacy of the Mindfulness Meditation Mobile App “Calm” to Reduce Stress Among College Students: Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR MHealth and UHealth, 7(6), e14273. https://doi.org/10.2196/14273
Rafi, M. A., Mamun, M. A., Hsan, K., Hossain, M., & Gozal, D. (2019). Psychological Implications of Unemployment Among Bangladesh Civil Service Job Seekers: A Pilot Study. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10, 578. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00578
Santos-Ruiz, A., Robles-Ortega, H., Pérez-García, M., & Peralta-Ramírez, M. I. (2017). Effects of the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Stress Management on Executive Function Components. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 20, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1017/sjp.2017.10
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