Take It Easy!

In India, the academic year ends in March along with the financial year, making the period from January to March a crucial time for students, businessmen, and politicians. Although a common expectation is that all the hard work of the year will ultimately bear fruit, in reality, the results depend on good performance, which in turn requires a positive state of mind. Managing stress effectively during challenging periods is a key factor in maintaining a positive attitude.

To better understand how stress can impact performance, let’s start by understanding what stress is. The biological form of stress is the body’s reactive response to a threatening or challenging condition in the environment. In psychological terms, a person suffering from stress may experience it as an unpleasant feeling of strain, psychological pain or anxiety. The mind and the body show symptoms of co-relativity.  

While experiencing stress, one might find it difficult to function, whereas in some situations, stress may function as a motivator and an energy booster. For example, athletes often convert stressful energies into structured physical energy. However, when it comes to cognitive tasks, stress can hinder our ability to function.

Acute stress can lead to cognitive decline in the brain, affecting its power to retain memories. According to a study cited in Prevention magazine, this is due to the stress hormonesn cortisol and noradrenaline. These hormones impact the prefrontal cortex of the brain, an area that controls working memory and processes and retains new information.

According to the authors of the book, HeartMath Brain Fitness Program, our ability to focus, concentrate and remember is dependent on how much emotional stress we are experiencing. “Emotional stress has a major impact on our immediate and long-term cognitive functions, and underlies many of the mental health problems in society today”, it explains.

Also, researchers have identified stress to be a contributing factor to lower heart coherence, and some are focussed on finding non-drug related solutions to reduce and control unhealthy stress levels. One of them is based on the finding that intentionally evoking positive emotions is one of the fastest and most effective ways to reduce unhealthy stress.

Researchers at the HeartMath Institute have found that appreciation is one of the most powerful and effective positive emotions. Studies have been conducted using heart-monitoring technology such as an electrocardiogram to measure heart-rhythm patterns. The findings illustrate that when a subject intentionally experiences appreciation, the heart-rhythm patterns nearly instantly transform from erratic to smooth, indicating reduced stress levels and greater heart coherence. This enables a range of psychological benefits, which include improved memory, focus, and a stronger immune system, among others. The research concludes that participants experienced significant reduction in stress levels and improvement in cognitive functions by intentionally feeling core positive emotions such as care, compassion, and love.

As part of their quest to find interventions that focus on reducing stress without drugs, these researchers have also stated that meditation and mindfulness – non-judgmental awareness in each moment – have also shown positive results in adults with mild cognitive impairment.

When you’refeeling stressed, you can try the following methods to keep it under control:

Breathe. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to bring down your body’s stress levels. When you breathe deeply, it causes the brain to calm down and relax.

Exercise. Physical activity causes the body to release endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. Physical workouts also improve your ability to get restful sleep, which also helps keep stress levels in control.

Listen to music. Listening to classical or other relaxing music has a soothing power and can be an extremely effective stress management tool. Music’s unique link to our emotions causes our mind and body to relax.

Hope you now feel equipped to live a stress-free life, or at least get through some of those crazy days!

- Kanchan