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‘Stress’ is a term that everyone has used at least once in their life with different contexts behind each. Put simply, it is a physiological and/or psychological reaction to external or internal events. It is a state of mental tension and worry that can sometimes cause anxiety.

Stress is natural and everyone experiences stress from time to time. It can be caused by external stress (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal stress (illness, or from a medical procedure). Numerous factors can cause this, ranging from problems in interpersonal relationships, work management, parenting, daily life stressors etc.

Acute stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help an individual cope with serious situations. Our body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase our heart rate and breathing, thereby preparing our muscles to respond. However, chronic stress that is prolonged can cause or increase health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke.

Furthermore, stress can have deleterious effects on our central nervous system as well as our endocrine, respiratory, digestive, immune, reproductive and muscular systems. Therefore, stress can cause physical, emotional and cognitive problems, contributing to counterproductive behaviour.

There are several effective coping strategies that can help individual manage stress. The first step is to successfully identify the trigger and accept it. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, guided imagery and deep breathing exercises help the body relax, thereby, causing a physiological change that helps lower the individual’s blood pressure, heart and breathing rate.

Mindfulness has gained immense popularity as an effective technique to help people manage their stress and improve their physical and mental well-being. Mindfulness meditation brings about positive changes in the biology of our brain, thereby, reducing stress. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is based on the premise that changing unhealthy thinking can significantly change our emotions by identifying negative thoughts and learning to replace it with healthy and positive thoughts.

It is, therefore, necessary to identify and manage stress at an early stage to avoid complications related to physical, cognitive and mental health in an individual’s life.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies

By Dr Rachna Khanna Singh

Dr Rachna Khanna Singh, the Senior Fellow with DRaS is a Mental Wellness Expert, a TEDx Talk speaker, focused on Relationship, Lifestyle & Stress Management. She heads the Department of Holistic Medicine & Wellness at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon and the Founder and Director of The Mind & Wellness Studio, Delhi & NGO ‘Serve Samman’. Dr Rachna is a visiting lecturer and faculty member of various esteemed educational institutes worldwide such as IIM, IIT, BITS PILANI, Delhi University, NMIMS, Amity University, Himachal Medical Colleges, University of Exeter, University of Minnesota, Royal College of Physicians, etc.