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Stress management

What is stress?

Stress is part of life that every human being experiences, regardless of age, social status, and cultural background. It can be related to study, work, family, peer pressure, relationship issues, life transitions and financial problems. In behavioural science, stress is defined as a perception of threat that causes anxiety, emotional tension, and adjustment difficulties (Fink, 2010). When our stress is tolerable and manageable, we can stay focused and alert. However, if it goes beyond what we can bear and cope with, it may affect our health, productivity, and quality of life.


How does stress affect us?

If stress continues without relief, it may disturb the body’s internal balance which can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, increased blood pressure, chest pain, sexual dysfunction, and sleeping issues (Reddy et al., 2019). As far as emotional symptoms are concerned, individuals may become easily moody and agitated, have difficulty relaxing, and it may even lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.


Stress management based on the concept of Mind-body medicine

Based on the concept of Mind-body medicine (MBM), an understanding of the interactions between the brain, mind, body, and behaviour can be used to promote health and well-being, reduce stress, thus improve the quality of life (Esch & Stefano, 2022). This approach can be summarised by using the acronym BERN, which stands for the four components in stress management— behaviour, exercise, relaxation, and nutrition. (Esch & Stefano, 2010). The key principle of this framework focuses on how psychological, emotional, spiritual, social, and behavioural factors influence human health, and the techniques used can support an individual’s self-regulation of the connection between the mind and body. Behaviour is the first component in the BERN framework and it may include activities we enjoy, social support, creative or artistic activities. It is believed that behaviours that can reduce stress are usually neurobiologically rewarding due to pleasure (Esch & Stefano, 2022). As a result of pleasurable behaviours, happy hormones such as dopamine and endorphin are released, and one’s ability to self-regulate can be improved. The second element in the BERN model is exercise. Research has shown that regular physical exercise can modify essential neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, thus increase antidepressant functions (Bottaccioli et al., 2021). Relaxation, the third component of the model, refers to activities such as meditation, spiritual beliefs, and sleep hygiene. For instance, studies show that spiritual practices can enhance resilience and help individuals to develop better coping skills to handle stress (Algahtani et al., 2022). Sufficient sleep, on the other hand, is essential to mental and physical wellbeing. Recent studies show that prolonged sleep deprivation in healthy people is not only stressful but may even cause psycho-pathological symptoms and mood changes (Nollet et al., 2020). The final element of the framework is nutrition, which includes diet and the intake of supplements. Studies have shown that diet can positively influence one’s state of mind and psychological symptoms (Bottaccioli et al., 2021). For instance, excessive calorie intake can cause inflammation of the hypothalamus, an important cerebral area which can help regulate emotional and stress responses. Moreover, stress together with cortisol overproduction will make the intestinal wall more permeable to microorganisms, which leads to leaky gut, resulting in a variety of health issues, autoimmune conditions, and even mood disorders (Camilleri, 2019). Importance of self-care In order to manage stress more effectively, we need to include self-care in our daily routine (Grewe et al., 2020). Self-care involves taking care of your own needs, including your physical, mental, and emotional health. This can include activities such as exercise, meditation, spending time with loved ones, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet. By prioritising self-care, we can reduce the negative effects of stress on our bodies and minds. This can also help us to feel more in control of our lives and better able to manage different challenges. Self-care is not a luxury, but a necessity for overall health and well-being. Incorporating self-care into our daily routine can improve our productivity and overall quality of life. When we take care of ourselves, we are better equipped to handle the demands of work, school, and other responsibilities. It is important to remember that self-care is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one person may not work for another, and it is important to find activities that work for you and fit into your lifestyle. Additionally, self-care is not a one-time event, but an ongoing practice that requires commitment and consistency. In conclusion, stress is a natural part of life, but it is important to manage it effectively to prevent negative impacts on our health and well-being. Mind-body medicine offers a useful framework for stress management, emphasising the importance of behaviour, exercise, relaxation, and nutrition. Incorporating self-care into our daily routine can help us manage stress more effectively and improve our overall health and well-being.


References

Algahtani, F.D., Alsaif, B., Ahmed, A.A., Almishaal, A.A., Obeidat, S.T., Mohamed, R.F., Kamel, R.M., Gil, I., Hassan, S.N. (2022). Using Spiritual Connections to Cope with Stress and Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 22(13), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.3389/f-suggest.2022.915290


Bottaccioli, F., Bottaccioli, A.G., Marzola, E., Longo, P., Minnelli, A., Abbate-Daga, G. (2021). Nutrition, Exercise, and Stress Management for treatment and Prevention of Psychiatric Disorders. A Narrative Review Psychoneuroendocrineimmunology-Based. Endocrines, 2, 226-240. https://d’où.org/10.3390/endocrines2030022


Camilleri, M. (2019). Leaky gut: Mechanisms, measurement and clinical implications in humans. Gut 19(68), 1516-1526. https://doi.org/10.1136/gutjnl-2019-318427


Devi, P., Reddy, M.A., Zahan, O., Sharma, J. (2019). The Effect on Stress on Human Life. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Praveena-Devi/publication/ 337445248_THE_EFFECT_OF_STRESS_ON_HUMAN_LIFE/links/ 5dd7f216299bf10c5a287713/THE-EFFECT-OF-STRESS-ON-HUMAN-LIFE.pdf? origin=publication_detail


Esch, T. & Stefano, G. (2010). The neurobiology of stress management. Neuro Endocrinology Letters, 31(1), 19-39. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tobias-Esch-2/publication/ 255685315_The_neurobiology_of_stress_management/links/ 00b7d5202705840699000000/The-neurobiology-of-stress-management.pdf? origin=publication_detail


Esch, T. & Stefano, G. (2022). The BERN Framework of Mind-Body Medicine: Integrating Self-Care, Health Promotion, Resilience, and Applied Neuroscience. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience. http://doi.org/10.3389/flint.2022.913573


Fink, G. (2010). Stress: Definition and history. University of Melbourne. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-008045046-9.00076-0


Grewe, J., Xu, X., Mozafari, A.R. (2020). Self-Care Tips for Stress Management. Idaho State University. https://doi.org/10.24839/2164-9812.Eye24.3.34


Lohan, S., Malik, P., Saini, A., Dudi, J. (2022). Counselling for Stress Management: A Review. Recent Trends in Multidisciplinary Research, 33: 17-33. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 360608899_Counselling_for_Stress_Management_A_Review


Nollet, M., Wisden, W., Franks, N.P. (2020). Sleep deprivation and stress: a reciprocal relationship. Interface Focus. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2019.0092

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