Generally speaking, individuals who count their blessings and not their troubles are psychologically better equipped to deal with stress
The struggle for survival and success in every era of human existence has been marked by unwelcome events and daily hassles of life. The life of an individual or community has never been a cakewalk. It is usually beset with ups and downs, highs and lows, and all that jazz. Our life from womb to tomb has to adjust and adapt in the face of ever-changing challenges and circumstances. The circumstances in which we find ourselves are not always controllable, predictable or desirable. Needless to mention here is the fact that no life goes unchallenged and one has to face the challenges with plenty of patience, perseverance, resilience and intelligence.
Since the outbreak of Covd-19 pandemic and the accompanying lockdown, the management of stress has captured public attention. Professionals in the field define stress as “a pattern of cognitive appraisals, physiological responses and behavioural tendencies that occurs in response to a perceived imbalance between situational demands and the resources needed to cope with them”. This definition of stress, in no uncertain terms, underlines the role of our mind in controlling our response towards stressful situations or circumstances. The way one’s mind perceives the situation in the first place will dictate a lot in terms of what kind of impact the situation will have. In other words, it can be stated that, what is stressful for some individuals may not be so for others. The kind of person you are and the resources which are at your disposal will decide and determine your response towards stressful situations.
Nevertheless, if man is pitted against stress and its related problems, he is at the same time equipped with the ways and means of dealing with them effectively. It is in this backdrop that the writer wishes to discuss various coping strategies that can be employed against stressful situations, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, which are here as under:
An attitude laced with optimism, hope, positive thinking and capacity for seeing light at the end of the tunnel is a potential resource to be utilised during trying times. Hope, as a virtue, sustains us strongly in the face of stress-prone situations, like bereavement, losing one’s job, failing an interview or an important examination, and so on. Optimists, in the face of adversity, are more likely to see the problems as temporary, controllable, and specific to the situation, while pessimists see them as long-lasting, uncontrollable, and also generalise them to other, even dissimilar, situations. Optimists are more likely to face stressful life events with a positive attitude and without getting trapped into the vicious cycle of anxiety and depression.
Social support is an important buffer against stressful situations. The knowledge that you can rely on near and dear ones for comfort and support during hard times helps you to face a crisis with courage and confidence. Many research studies have verified and confirmed the positive impact of good social relations on the body’s immune system functions. Patients who are enjoying social well-being are more likely to recover from illness quickly than those who are social isolates. Individuals who are at the receiving end of social isolation or loneliness are more susceptible and vulnerable to the effects of stressful life events than those who are enjoying good social networks.
Self-efficacy or the firm belief in oneself about successfully facing stressors, whatsoever, is a personal resource which characterises those who are resilient. Their successful prior experience with similar stressful life events in the past improves their present sense of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy reflects your attitude of control over stress-prone events. Your appraisal of a stressful situation as one that can be controlled with the right coping strategies adds to your sense of self-efficacy.
Trauma disclosure and emotional expressiveness as a coping strategy against distress has had mixed responses from experts. One group of researchers affirmed that talking or writing about your suppressed traumas or unwelcome feelings adds to the healing process through reduction in the levels of anxiety and depression. Other experts believe that sudden emotional bursts of bottled-up strong negative feelings makes the individual even more emotional which, later on, proves unhealthy for protecting and promoting his socio-emotional well-being.
The ability to see meaning in stressful life events has its own set of dividends. People who believe that whatever happens, happens for the good, have this cheerful character of perceiving positivity in every situation, whether good or bad. They are able to see a silver lining in every black cloud. People who are genuinely religious have this capacity of looking at the positive side of things even in the worst circumstances. The undying faith in their creator and a kind of meaning or purpose they seek in any tragedy helps them to withstand its negative impact very well.
The bottomline: It can be safely concluded that stress strikes us all and sundry but the key lies in how we deal with it, which, in turn, depends upon how we appraise or perceive the stressful life event in the first place, keeping in mind the resources which are at our disposal. Generally speaking, individuals who count their blessings and not their troubles are psychologically better equipped to deal with stress. Moreover, people who are sanguine, optimistic, enjoy good social ties, have self-efficacy, are emotionally expressive and are genuinely religious, have a better chance of coping with stressful situations like Covid-19 than those who find themselves deficient in such coping strategies. It is pertinent to mention here that we need to learn that every good or bad experience has something significant to offer in terms of making us learn the real lessons of our lives.
The writer is Assistant Professor at Department of Education, Central University of Kashmir. [email protected]