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Useful Facts About Stress & Expert Tips On How To Control It

Clinical psychologist Avantika Dixit has dedicated her life to helping young people deal with the difficulties and disruptions that are so unique to the modern era…

Running until May 31, this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month has been an extremely important one as millions of us have experienced or seen a loved one experience a mental health problem as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has undoubtedly had a major effect on our lives and made us face taxing challenges. While public health actions like social distancing and working from home have helped curb the spread of COVID-19, they have also made people feel isolated and lonely and can be a reason for experiencing anxiety and stress. The latter can cause a plethora of problems ranging from feelings of anger or fear and a change in energy levels or appetite to difficulty concentrating or sleeping and physical reactions.

Thankfully, people like Avantika Dixit have been stepping up the fight for mental health. The Clinical Psychologist has worked with young men and women around the world battling mental health crises.  Her passion for supporting mental health ultimately led her to create  Woke Hero, an online social therapy platform that guides people through life’s rough moments while helping them find meaning in their lives.   

Here’s a list of stress management insights from Dixit, a former tech entrepreneur and brain tumor survivor, that can help you, your significant other and family members live more fulfilling lives. She has also shared some evidence-based tips for preventing and coping with stress.

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Stress is everywhere

The World Health Organization has conclusively declared that 80 percent of global disease burden is attributed to stress.

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Stress is a chemical reaction

Stress developed as a biochemical response to keep us from danger. Short bursts of stress can even be positive, boosting neuromuscular performance and motivation. Persistent rises in stress hormones like cortisol and noradrenaline are what create the sense of fight-or-flight, and make us feel overwhelmed, anxious or apathetic.

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Stress sparks the sympathetic nervous system

Your body has an autonomic nervous system that goes into either sympathetic mode, the state in which you are reacting to a perceived threat,  in fight-or-flight response or parasympathetic mode. During the latter, the nervous system stops the body from overworking, bringing it back to a calm and collected state. Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system into overdrive, preventing rest and deep healing.

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 Choose what you watch carefully to avoid stress triggers

Watching the news or focusing on certain social media content can lead to negativity bias, which causes your brain to see the world as worse and more threatening than it actually is. Humans have a bad habit of mentally concentrating more on things that go wrong than those that go right. And just one discouraging event can cause a domino effect of negativity in our minds that can be harmful to our work, relationships, happiness and wellbeing.

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Cultivate your brain

The prefrontal and neocortex, also referred to as the “higher brain”, are the most recently evolved regions of the human brain, responsible for feelings of wellbeing and executive function. Executive functions are what allow us to control short-sighted, reflexive behaviours and partake in the likes of planning, decision-making, problem-solving, self-control and long-term goal planning.

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Try these breathing exercises

Breathwork practices are easily found on the Internet, and three of Avatika’s favourites are the alternate nostril breathing, the inhale, hold and exhale in a 1:2:4 pattern and the simple, prolonged inhalation-exhalation practice. All three stimulate the vagus nerve, which can switch your brain from sympathetic to parasympathetic function and can lower stress in as little as 30 seconds.

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 Have a go at acu-meridian stimulation

The highly proven practice, also called tapping, involves taps on key points on the hand, head, face, collar bone and chest that activate the release of any emotional or energetic blockages stored there. It takes less than five minutes to tap on oneself each day. As well as several free tapping resources online, it’s possible to join free tapping circles or groups in your community or online, including Woke Hero’s. 

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Add meditation and visualisation to your to-do list

People who meditate a minimum of 20 minutes, several times a week, have shown to have brains with a more well-developed prefrontal cortex and neocortex. Studies have proved that meditation and visualisation can fuel positive brain development in less than three weeks, and continued practice gives better results with time.

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Make nature, detoxes and simplification priorities

Spending more time in nature and doing a digital fast for several hours each day can really help in reducing stress. Adopting mindfulness and simplifying life as much as possible also go a long way in lowering those stress levels.

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Focus on gratitude, happiness and love

Oxytocin and serotonin are released when you think of or participate in acts of love, appreciation or joy. These two “love hormones” are natural stress-removers.

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Make structure, rituals and consistency the norm

By staying organised and creating rituals and predictable routines, you can better manage the areas of your life that you have control over. Set achievable goals and celebrate when you hit those milestones, plus don’t’ forget to remind yourself of the progress you are making.

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