April is Stress Awareness Month and with the effects of Covid adding to the heavy workloads, student debts, and societal pressures Millennials already face, how are they coping with the extra pandemic stress?
Clinical Psychologist and Hypnotherapist Avantika Dixit believes many aren’t coping well. Avantika, who is also a brain tumor survivor, understands the strength in adversity, and that’s exactly what inspired her to create Woke Hero, a platform to teach Millennials how to overcome their struggles and find meaning in their lives.
Avantika says, “Outside of their daily work and financial struggles, until 2020, the biggest stressors for Millenials were major life events like divorce, death, illness, or caring for a family member— things that don’t happen too often,” says Dixit. “The pandemic really turned up the switch on that, and now young people are needing help navigating through it all. By knowing and understanding the causes of stress, and taking the time to focus on their mental health, they can begin the journey towards peace of mind.”
Avantika Dixit shares five crucial points for understanding stress, as well as some practical advice for coping:
1. Stress is a Global Phenomenon - The World Health Organization (WHO) has conclusively declared that 80% of global disease burden is attributed to stress.
2. Stress is a Chemical Reaction - Stress evolved as a biochemical response to keep us from danger. Short bursts of stress can even be positive—enhancing neuromuscular performance and motivation. Chronic elevations of stress hormones like cortisol and noradrenaline are what create the sense of fight-or-flight, and make us feel overwhelmed, anxious, or apathetic.
3. Stress Triggers the Sympathetic Nervous System - Your body has an autonomic nervous system which goes into either sympathetic mode—the state in which you are reacting to a perceived threat, or in fight-or-flight response— or parasympathetic mode, wherein the nervous system prevents the body from overworking, restoring it to a calm and composed state. Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system into overdrive, preventing rest and deep healing.
4. Watch What You Watch to Avoid Stress Triggers - Watching the news or engaging with certain social media content can lead to negativity bias—a state in which your brain perceives the world to be worse and more threatening than it actually is. Humans have a bad habit of mentally giving more weight to things that go wrong than to things that go right—just one negative event can cause a domino effect of negativity in our minds that can be damaging to our work, relationships, happiness and well-being.
5. Develop Your Brain, Feel Less Stress - The prefrontal and neocortex are the most recently evolved regions of the human brain and are also referred to as the “higher brain” which is responsible for feelings of well-being and executive function. Executive functions are what allow us to control short-sighted, reflexive behaviors and that allow us to take part in things such as planning, decision-making, problem-solving, self-control, and long-term goal planning.
Avatika’s evidence-based tips for preventing and coping with stress:
1. Conscience breathing -Breathwork practices are easily found on the internet at no cost. Three of my favorites 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.
2. Acu-meridian stimulation - Also called tapping. This is a highly proven practice where taps on key points on the hand, head, face, collar bone and chest , chest activate the release of any emotional or energetic blockages stored there. It takes less than 5 minutes to tap on oneself each day. There are several free tapping resources online and you can also be part of the free tapping circles or groups in your community or online. Woke Hero also offers one.
3. Meditation and visualization - 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 visualization can stimulate positive brain development in less than three weeks, and continued practice gives better results with time.
4. Simplification and Detox - Spending more time in nature, doing a digital fast for several hours each day, adopting mindfulness, and simplifying life as much as possible, can really help in reducing stress.
5. Gratitude, Joy and Love - Oxytocin and serotonin are released when you think of or participate in acts of love, gratitude or joy. These two “love hormones” are natural stress-removers.
6. Be organized and create rituals and predictability - By staying organized 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. Keep reminding yourself of the progress you are making.