Coping with stress calls on a variety of approaches

It happens at every exam time. He comes home with a pounding headache, plenty of anxiety and pressure on his shoulders.

Studying in the health and sciences program at the University of Toronto, is especially stressful. For Alex Singh, there is only one answer to his stress.

“I make my way into the kitchen, grab a shot glass and pour in some … vodka,” Singh said. “The shots temporarily take me away from my reality.”

He added that the stress came from dealing with his problems and coping with the responsibilities of school and work.

Experts say that stress is a combination of good and bad emotions, and that it affects an individual’s psychological, physical and behavioural well-being. In a 2010 mental health survey, statistics revealed that eight out of 10 Canadian university students experience stress during academic years. Melinda Smith, an American health professional, defines stress as the body’s response to perceived dangers.

“Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat,” Smith said. “When you sense danger — whether it’s real or imagined — the body’s defence mechanism kicks into high gear, which is the automatic process known as ‘fight-or-flight.'”

Lorene Stanwick
Lorene Stanwick recommends healthy ways to combat stress for students at Centennial College (Rashida Powankumar/Toronto Observer)

Lorene Stanwick works as a disability counsellor at Centennial College in Toronto. She explained that she meets with different students from various backgrounds. They often come to her with their stress-related problems. Stanwick provided a definition of stress.

“Stress is life’s demands and challenges … greater than one is capable of handling at any given moment,” Stanwick said. “One’s cognitive process becomes cloudy and disorganized when under stress.”

Antonette Monaoe is not a student, but she still deals with the stress that comes from her job as a salesperson at Beauty Supplier located in downtown Toronto.

“We cater to all individuals and sell the most popular products,” she said. “My passion is make-up. … However, there is one stressful aspect of my job — hyper customers. … I often have to deal with irate, complacent and distraught customers.”

In particular, she recalled an instance of a customer storming into her story and complaining about what he called the lack of quality customer service.

Monaoe has found a solution that helps her cope with workplace pressures and that solution is yoga.

“I close my eyes and focus on breathing and relaxation, inhale and exhale breathing techniques,” Monaoe said. “It takes me to a dark space. I am blind in that moment.”

Yoga and fitness instructor Tracy Hunt helps individuals, such as Monaoe, release tension, pressure and plenty of anxiety by focusing on practicing mindful breathing techniques.

“I have worked for Parks, Forestry and Recreation as a yoga and fitness instructor for more than five years,” Hunt said.

After years of trying different strategies, Monaoe believes that yoga is the best way to filter out the unnecessary build up of stress.

Counsellor Stanwick believes that Singh’s use of alcohol is perhaps a different kind of solution to stress, but she prefers healthy approaches to dealing with one’s troubles.

“It is important to eat healthy, balanced meals. Quality of sleep is crucial for proper functioning the next day,” Stanwick said. “Also, it is important to talk to anyone that will listen, rather than bottling emotions inside.”

Yoga instructor, Hunt offers Monaoe a similarly healthy approach.

“Yoga strengthens my core and teaches me to be in the present, Monaoe said. “It releases my mind of any negatives that the universe may throw my way.”