ABRAHAM: How to effectively cope with stress
Opinions Column: Code Wellness
Five minutes before my shift ended, a patient suddenly became unresponsive with no cardiac activity. The adrenal rush quickly kicked in as I called a code blue and immediately began chest compressions with the assistance of the primary registered nurse. Within minutes, the rest of the interdisciplinary team arrived. Luckily, we were able to revive the patient.
Most, if not all, of us have experienced some form of stress. Whether stress comes from saving another person’s life, studying for an exam, giving a patient an injection, taking our state board exams, writing a paper, taking care of a sick child, giving a speech or even going to your first job interview, stress is often inevitable. Stress is also very subjective. What I perceive as stressful may not be stressful to you and vice versa. In reality, life after college will present with many new, exciting and potentially stressful situations. The key is to effectively handle stress. Developing good stress management skills and techniques can be highly beneficial.
Feeling nervous, emotional or having difficulty falling asleep can be normal reactions to stress. Some healthy ways to cope with stress include self care, such as eating nutritious meals, exercising on a regular basis, getting a break when you feel overwhelmed or stressed and ensuring adequate rest and sleep. Meditation, yoga, listening to soothing music, writing in a journal, drawing, coloring, spending time in nature, calling a good friend or even playing with your pet are some simple methods to reducing stress. For some, spirituality and religion are helpful techniques for managing stress. While self-reflection is great, talking to others can be helpful as well. Avoid excessive intake of caffeine. Take deep breaths while inhaling and exhaling slowly. Moreover, it is important to realize and accept that you cannot control everything. Ask yourself, “Is this really as bad as I think it is?” Perry-Parrish and colleagues explain that meditation is an effective approach to addressing stress and “improving self regulation” in children, adolescents, and adults. “Mindfulness meditation ... has been shown to improve mental health and quality of life." The researchers explain that this form of meditation “reduces psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, and improves emotion regulation; improves attention and the ability to focus; and reduces maladaptive coping and rumination” (Perry-Parrish et al., 2016).
According to theAmerican Art Therapy Association (AATA), "Art therapy helps people resolve conflicts, improve interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce negative stress and achieve personal insight.” By helping an individual resolve conflicts and develop effective coping strategies, the AATA states that art therapy can “restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being.” One should realize that art therapy is different from using an adult coloring book. Art therapy is a profession consisting of trained therapists to help individuals work through conflicts. Dr. Martinez wrote in the Huffington Post that adult coloring is useful because it allows “Individuals (to) remove (their attention) from the negative issues and habits and focus them in a safe and productive way.”
Avoid drugs and alcohol. Taking a break and recognizing when you need more help is crucial. Getting help can occur through various avenues such as friends, social workers, professional counselors, psychologists, etc. Many hospitals offer support groups for individuals to talk, listen and help one another. You can see if hospitals near you offer support groups by simply searching the hospital’s website or calling the facility. You can also contact your local library, community centers or even religious institutions to see if they offer support groups. Remember, not all support groups have to be in-person. There are similar services offered online and by telephone. If you are feeling stressed, depressed, angry or even overwhelmed, attending a support group can be beneficial. Advantages of joining a support group include learning to develop healthy and effective coping mechanisms, improving one’s problem-solving abilities and enhancing self-esteem. Support groups allow individuals to express negative thoughts/feelings which may help members realize that they are not alone when experiencing a particular challenge.
Marilu Henner once said, “Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredients to (live) a happy, healthy, and rewarding life.” While stress can make us feel overwhelmed and helpless, it is important to realize that we have more control over our stress than we perceive. Effectively coping and managing stress requires taking an initiative of one’s life, thoughts and habits.
Cilgy Abraham is a Rutgers School of Nursing senior. Her column, "Code Wellness," runs on alternate Mondays.
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