Have you ever wondered what happens to all the negative emotional energy you experience in your day? Every time you have gotten into an argument with your colleague at work, or are rushing against time to meet a deadline, or your child has been not keeping too well, or you have just experienced a terrible loss. How does what you feel and experience live through you? Our discontentment has many faces from seemingly harmless to more difficult conflicts. What happens to the energy of those moments? Where does it all go?
Well, you might have noticed a connection between your headache and your deadline.
When stress has no vent it sits in our body. Stress manifests itself in many ways. From physical knots, tightened muscles, aches and pain to more complex syndromes like paralysis and cancer; stress rears its ugly head.
We humans are complex creatures. When the emotions we experience are very painful we have a tendency to suppress them. Denying the pain, we tend to carry the hurt for a long time.
An unpleasant thought of hurt can bring forth a headache, backache, an irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive problems. It can develop ulcers, a spike in blood pressure, delayed recovery rates of medical conditions and in some cases it can even cause innate predisposed ailments to manifest, like diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, depression, etc.
Panic attacks are a common sign of anxiety that have been allowed to build up. Like a pressure cooker, latent anxiety simmers, reaching a boiling point over a silly trigger.
The cardiac wards are often visited by patients actually experiencing a panic attack, a healthy heart gone weary. That’s the connection between our mind and our body. How do we reach such a place? We reach these levels of anxiety because we have been ignoring the signs of stress.
At the end of each day it is important to give yourself some time to reflect and when you find something disturbing, address it. Often we are afraid to do so and instead we deny or push it aside.
In fact, stress can cause you to behave in ways which will worsen your physical health. One common way people deal with anxiety is to eat unhealthily. Binge eating or food cravings when you are not hungry are practices to temporarily satisfy your anxiety. Alcohol consumption and drug use are common methods for people seeking temporary relief but they are quicker ways to spiral downwards without much effort.
When faced with stress, one needs to find an adequate outlet. Learn to disperse the energy without letting it get the better of you. Sometimes certain events are unavoidable, like dealing with loss or illness.
At such a time the only way to deal with it is by bolstering yourself and using whatever protective mechanism you possibly.
Talk therapy is very useful technique for dealing with overwhelming situations. Visit a therapist or confide in a supportive friend. It should be someone non judgmental who can give you unconditional positive regard to help you deal with the conflicts.
There are many functions to talk therapy. Firstly, you release pent up energy. It’s like a weight lifted off your shoulders. Secondly, talking with someone helps you look at the problem differently and of course often you get new ideas and this allows new thinking to take place. It gives you new perspective and probably new ways to deal with the problem. You need to be able to see the problem from a different lens.
Another way I personally find rewarding and use it as my coping strategy is ‘maintain a routine’. Remind yourself that you are going through a difficult period and you need to take good care of yourself. Avoid all possible triggers that could get you worked up. Get the good hormones kicking in with a lot of exercises and hobbies. Do not put yourself at risk for further stress.
Thoughts play a huge role in the way you deal with your stress. I like to call it ‘no entry’ to your site of stresses. Memories trigger emotions and the funny thing about memories is that you visit those places that have left you feeling small or worthless and not those that made you feel great or special. Harboring angry feelings takes a direct toll on your immune system and affects health in very complex ways.
As human, we have limitations. We have no control over what goes on outside us, but we sure have control over what goes on within us. Face your pain, acknowledge it, and let it not reside in your body.
Learn your lesson and remember this too shall pass. Centre yourself in a happier space.
(Writer is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and the HOD of psychology at Carmel College for Women)