Ogueji Ifeanyichukwu A. – Coping With Daily Stress

Erin Parish, "Try a Mantra"
Erin Parish, “Try a Mantra”

We can’t exist without eating or drinking, so we also can’t exist without the occurrence of stressful life events. It is normal to be stressed, but it is abnormal to be so stressed that our functioning becomes impaired. What I’m saying is that being stressed becomes abnormal when stressful events prevent us from interacting with our spouse, children, colleagues at work/school, eating or sleeping well, having adequate libido and so on. From here, we can see why psychologists have viewed stress in three different ways: as a stimulus, as a response, and as an ongoing interaction between an organism and its environment.

We refer to stress as a stimulus when we make statements such as, “My car just broke down,” “My fiance just announced a vow of eternal celibacy,” or “I have two exams today.” Stress can be a response that possesses cognitive, physiological, and behavioral components such as, “I can’t sleep,” “I’ve been irritable all week,” “I can’t concentrate,” or “I’ve lost my libido.” Stress can also be a person-situation interaction, where the situation is influencing the person and the person is influencing the situation in return.

How do we cope with stressful life events, since they are inevitable? There are many ways, but I’ll emphasize four major strategies:

1. The first and most important strategy is to expect stressful events to occur at any time, so that when they occur, we won’t ask ourselves such questions as: “Why me?” “What have I done to deserve this?” or “What is the use of living?” All these questions represent feelings of guilt and self-blame. As human beings, when we expect an event to occur, we won’t be pushed by its occurrence. Let us note that this doesn’t mean that we should not avoid stressful events as much as possible.

2. The second strategy is problem-focused. It attempts to confront and directly deal with the demands of the situation or to change the situation so that it is no longer as stressful. For example, if as a student you have two exams in a day, then you should study very hard for the exams, rest well, and eat and drink properly to make you physiologically and psychologically balanced for the exam. Another example is going directly to another person to work out a misunderstanding. This strategy allows us to take charge of the situation, thereby taking control of our lane on life’s highway.

3. The third strategy is to find meaning in stressful events.

Humanistic psychology emphasizes the human need to find meaning in one’s life and the psychological benefits of doing so. Some people find meanings through their norms, values, attitudes, or spiritual beliefs which can serve as a great comfort in the face of crises. Take, for example, a religious man who has lost his spouse and may now think that it is the will of God, and that they will meet again on the other side. By so doing, he is finding meaning in the death of his spouse and this will comfort him during her absence. Much research has been conducted by psychologists to support this strategy.

4. The fourth and final of the major strategies is to seek social support. Here, when we’re stressed we’re advised to turn to others for assistance and emotional support. The popular saying, “Two heads are better than one,” is useful here. For example, a student who is having difficulty in a course can seek the help of classmates, sharing burdens with someone you trust such as your spouse, fiance, family, or any significant person in your life. Social psychology research has shown that people who use the social support strategy feel like they’re not alone in the stressful event and they have someone who understands their plight and is willing to assist them. As a result, this produces a positive feeling in their psyche.

In conclusion, the major strategies and many more should be used to hold us firm during stressful life events. It is time to take control, rather than giving stressful events the driving wheel of your life. Act right!

Ogueji Ifeanyichukwu A.
University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.

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