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Stress levels of students are on the rise, as they are under pressure to perform superlatively in
examinations. Stress is also the bane of executives who are dogged by competition and ambition.
Stress means different things to different people. To a mountaineer, it is the challenge of pushing
physical resources to the limit by striving to achieve a demanding goal. To the motorist, it can be
the hassles of heavy traffic and pollution.
Stress is a major problem for many, but curiously, it is also a matter of pride in certain circles.
The perception is that if you are not stressed, you are just not working hard enough. You toss and
turn all night. The alarm doesn’t go off. You’re late for work. There’s a deadline to meet, but
your computer is down with virus. Three cups of coffee later, your head still throbs. Your back
hurts. Your eyes sting each time you blink.
Stress is the inability to cope with a real or imagined threat to your mental, physical, emotional
and spiritual well-being, which results in a series of physiological responses and adaptations. It
can be caused by both good and bad experiences. The Upanishads say that we are a part of the
world and the world is a part of us. As human beings, we live at several levels. Coping refers to
our efforts to manage stressful situations.
Make a list of possible sources of stress; it will help you understand and pay attention to issues
that are a source of stress. We might have a classic case of ‘‘stress overlap’’ when everything
seems to be going wrong, all at the same time. Be aware. Take a moment to determine your main
source of stress at the current time, and work towards managing it.
People are often reluctant to reveal that they are stressed and will resist any suggestion that
action needs to be taken, as such stress sits in the ‘shadows’, hidden from view. This will
continue until it bursts out into the open, by which time it might be either too late for remedial
action, or damage control becomes costly. A further shadow can be seen when an executive
chooses not to intervene in a potentially difficult situation, where someone appears to be
stressed. This might be because he doesn’t know how to deal with it, and so feels embarrassed at
exposing his lack of knowledge. Alternately, he might take a ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ approach and
just hope that it will go away.
Either way, the stress situation gets worse and recedes deeper into the shadows, and thus
becomes harder and costlier to address at a later date. Everyone responds differently to stress.
That is why some people seem to thrive during stressful situations, while others are exhausted.
Pressure is inevitable. The solution lies in active management. Pressure is a neutral force; it can
be channelled for good or bad. Pressure can be the stimuli; we need to enjoy our lives and learn
new skills, experience excitement and get things done. It can also be the force that causes
depression and anxiety, breaks relationships, making one miss deadlines, and even become
Resilient people accept responsibility for their life and their choices, and they understand what’s
gone wrong, and then try to fix it. So, they are able to cope with stress. Those who are not
naturally resilient can learn from the examples of others.