Kate Yvonne Barretto

With this scorching heat, it's enough reason for us to feel stressed. This has become a domino effect after classes in different areas from Metro Manila to other provinces were forced to cut short and adjust their class schedules from five whole school days down to three, each day shortened to half days. This adjustment has led to a more stressful work balance for teachers due to the backlogs and pending deadlines in computing grades or catching up on lessons.

Just like this domino effect, the Stress Management Society of the United Kingdom stressed the theme #LittleByLittle for this year's Stress Awareness Month. Which primarily focuses on the transformative impact of taking small steps towards bigger positive outcomes in releasing stress, emphasizing the overall improvement of one’s well-being through fulfilling manageable adjustments little by little. This can be done through simple habits such as practicing deep breathing, controlled mindfulness, spending time in nature, connecting with someone, and prioritizing sleep.

Stress itself is draining, even without physically doing anything that would make you feel exhausted. It is like trying to sprint in a dream — you’re exerting all this effort, sweating bullets, but somehow you’re not moving an inch. You’re exhausted from the mental gymnastics, yet you’re still in pajamas. You’re sweating over deadlines and responsibilities, yet you’re trapped in a static cycle of frustration. It’s the ultimate paradoxical workout for your brain and your sanity.

Most of the time, Gen Zs address this experience as getting ‘burnout,’ especially when it’s about the demands of their workload in academics. According to a Deloitte study (2023), 70% of Gen Zs and 63% of millennials in the Philippines experience this; what’s more alarming is that this number is a mile cry from the global average of 45%. Thus, it implies that the majority of the country's workforce has experienced stress leading to burnout due to work or academics-related stress.

However, stress is not always a bad thing. It is merely the body’s reaction triggered by changes that impose taxing demands. You see, we have two types of stressors: distress, which is the negative stress, and eustress, which is the positive stress. When you’re in the midst of stress, it’s easy to be in a reactive mode; adapting yourself to be eaten by the stressor. But when you let yourself take control, it will be much easier to manage your stress. 

With eustress, Hans Selye’s The Stress of Life tells us how this concept of stress energizes and motivates us in a way where eagerness to accomplish our defined outcome makes it easier for us to handle the stress we thought would have a negative impact. 

Take a moment to reflect on the situations you frequently are stressed about and think of what outcomes you want to achieve when you deal with them. While you are going through with that, here’s Five Ways to de-stress with Eustress:

1. Focus on what you want to happen.

It’s like manifesting, except that you are actually doing something to make it happen, you have a goal you set your mind on accompanied with actions. When you encounter a situation that feels like stressing you out, make sure to ask yourself: what do I want to get out of this? Because allowing yourself to create a goal in your mind that you are looking forward to accomplishing positively, will be your driving force to do something and deal with that stress.

2. Develop it into a healthy challenge that you’re happy to be working toward.  

You might be gaslighting yourself, but who doesn’t love a job done? Imagine completely eradicating that lingering panic in the back of your mind caused by the approaching deadline, you’re still dealing with the flames of pressure, but now you’re crafting something meaningful from the chaos because you chose to deal with it in a way that the stress will not ruin you — preventing you from getting burnout.

3. Embrace the adrenaline rush!

Don’t wait for the stress to come into the core of your mindset because it will surely spread out. Give yourself a 5-minute breather and then count from 1 to 3 and get yourself back up. It’s like preparing yourself for a race, you’re waiting for the “go” command and ready to sprint — that’s how you build your adrenaline up which will fuel you, and who knows, you might just find yourself out of the situation where the stress occurred. 

4. Expect the positive.

When going into something stressful, stop dwelling on the worst-case scenario, because you’re indirectly expecting it when it hasn't even happened yet. With eustress, you will find this as an exciting learning opportunity for yourself. This might be overused, but allowing yourself to think positively could potentially create a mindful strategy in working on your stress management. Stop worrying about what could go wrong when you can focus on something that will go right. 

5. Evaluate your feelings and manage the change.

Turning your stress into eustress requires a sensible practice that you will need to master over time. Assess your feelings. Remember, eustress should make you feel excited about whatever change is coming to you. Little jitters might be normal, but it shouldn’t dominate you or the situation. It’s inevitable to be a pro at something in an instant, but the more you indulge yourself with this mindset, it’ll be quicker for you to manage your stress advertently. 

This month of April marks the Stress Awareness Month. Make yourself aware of your stressors that trigger you frequently, find the balance between eustress and distress — something that will bring you sustainable stress relief, and watch how you react and what evokes your stress response to help you work with a more focused mindset. Don’t forget to breathe. 

One last thing, Hans Selye tells us that “It’s not the stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” You could go either way, but little by little, you will master the art of de-stressing with positive stress.