#ResilientAsiaChallenge Session 1: Why do I feel this way? What is stress & what can I do about it?
After recruiting the ‘brightest brains and experts from around the world’, today’s host Sally Leonard (CEO of Black Dog Consultants) introduces you to Episode 1 of the Resilient Asia Challenge. This 5-week journey of webinars intends to give back to the community during this difficult time and equip viewers/readers with the tools to tactically combat their own daily stress.
Today’s expert guest contributors will guide and inform you with their holistic approaches to tackling stress and training your brain.
So, what is stress?
Jeremy Stunt, informs us that ‘stress is a reaction to our bodies’. This is due to our body trying to juggle many different things all the time whilst keeping them in balance. The complexity of balancing everything is referred to as Allostasis, whilst our default system is the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the rest and digest system responsible for our immunity and recovery. When we are under stress, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and ignites our ‘fight or flight reaction’. Jeremy explains the psychological and social disruptions occurring globally due COVID19 has been an instigator for skyrocketing stress. As a result, we may experience unwanted physiological reactions such as increased heartbeat, slowed digestion, blood thickening, breathing changes and muscle tensing.
Switching gears, Michael Chan, Programme Manager of Responsible Business at Community Business, reflects on stress at a societal level. He describes the impact the virus has had on people’s stress levels in China. Statistics in China have shown a surge in divorces due to virus related isolation, whilst the general population has made claims of loneliness, a loss of community, autonomy and general cabin fever. He notes, people with pre-existing medical conditions face even more stress with stigmatisation due to their symptoms that coincide with those of COVID19. Michael notes that those in quarantine are also facing added stress due to feelings of alienation and shame when trying to reintegrate back into the community.
How do we go about controlling it then?
One immediate tactical solution is to focus on breathing. Jeremy refers to this as square breathing from the belly. You can practice this by lying on your back, putting an object on your belly and seeing if you can lift it. Like a square dance, you breath from your belly as you count 2,3,4 hold, then out 2,3,4 hold, and it will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system in just a minute. Jeremy also reinforces the more obvious measures many of us forget, such as, staying sufficiently hydrated, exercising regularly, sleeping adequate hours, taking in some sunshine and surrounding yourself with supportive relationships. He notes that directing yourself away from a stressful environment and questioning whether it is helpful e.g. social media, television etc. is extremely beneficial along with redirecting your thinking. Jeremy believes ultimately, we need to step back and be analytical about our worries and assumptions by writing them down and making some core assessments (e.g. describing the emotional state you’re in can help to defuse it). Jeremy believes this can enable us to regain control of our overwhelming anticipatory stress assumptions.
At a community level, Michael Chan suggests keeping a routine during these trying times and maintaining a schedule in order to feel in control. He concurs with Jeremy, that keeping emotions in check by penning your feelings is a very valuable tool and helps you to find meaning from these stressful experiences. He advocates maintaining your social connections and realising the power of your own network. A virtual coffee or catch up on Zoom with friends could be just the right pick me up for you. Helping others in the community can also boost mental health, such as volunteering for a non-profit organisation and distributing masks and hand sanitizer. Basically, he says never discount the obvious preventative measures, such as, masks, hand sanitizer and outdoor activity, like hiking.
To register for session 2: Brain training — How can I re-programme the way I think about stress so I can limit my stress triggers? Click www.resilientasiachallenge.com
- Hailing from the U.K., Jeremy Stunt typically works with senior leaders who grapple with high levels of stress. Notably, he previously led teams through the SARS financial crisis and therefore his advice during the current virus is invaluable.
- A Hong Kong native, Michael Chan is a Programme Manager of Responsible Business at Community Business. He has worked with companies across Asia to promote diversity, inclusion and employee wellbeing. He is also involved with the World Economic Forum and part of their Global Shapers Community, leading the hub’s mental health initiative called Shaping Minds and bringing us expert advice from a community perspective.
- Article produced in collaboration with Happyer — The modern job platform for millennials and GenZ.